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Full text of "If - Worlds Of Science Fiction v02n01 [Quinn] (Mar 1953) (Gorgon776)"

WORLDS of SCIENCE FICTION 



MARCH 1953 • 35 CENTS 



^,„<\~- 



)49m 



EADLY 

by Ivor Jorgenson 




DEFENSE BASE ON THE MOON— Two robot missiles, 
directed by base radio control and radar, leave their 
launching racks in pursuit of a foreign craft which has 
failed to acknowledge radio communications and identify 
itself. With their nose cameras they will send a televised 
image of the craft back to the defense base. If the croft 
is hostile, the missiles are directed to destroy it. Time: 
dawn. First hard sun rays hit crater pecks; Earth still 
lights base. Now turn to inside back cover. 



Illllllllllllll 



f 



WORLDS of SCIENCE FICTION 



MARCH 1953 
All Stories New and Complete 

Edilor: JAMES L. QUINN 

Art Director: ED VALIGURSKY 

Cover: Landing on Deimus 
By Ken Fagg 

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SHORT NOVEL 

DEADLY CITY by Ivar Jorgenson 

NOVELETTE 

THY NAME IS WOMAN by Kenneth O'Hora 

SHORT STORIES 

MARGIN OF ERROR by Richard Deeming 
THE VICTOR by Bryce Walton 
THE SWORD by Frank Quattrocchi 
THE ROTIFERS by Robert Abernathy 
THE BLACK TIDE by Arthur G. Stanglond 
THE SALESMAN by Waldo T. Boyd 

FEATURES 

A CHAT WITH THE EDITOR 
PERSONALITIES IN SCIENCE 
SCIENCE BRIEFS 
THE POSTMAN COMETH 

COVER PICTORIAL: Defense Base on the Moon 



55 



38 
42 
72 
82 
97 
111 



2 

94 

114 

119 



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IF is published bi-monthly by Quinn Publishing Company, Ii^. Volume 2, No, 1. 
Copyright 1933 by Quinn Publi.shing Co., Inc. Office of publication, 8 Lord Street, 
Buffalo, New York. Entered as Second Glass Matter at Post Office, Buffalo, New 
York. Subscription $3.50 for 12 issues in U.S. and Possessions; Canada $4 for 12 
issues; elsewhere $4.50. Allow four weeks for change of address. All stories appear- 
ing in this magazine are fiction; any similarity to actual persons is coincidental. 
Not responsible for unsolicited artwork or manuscripts. 35c a copy. Printed in U.S.A. 

EDITORIAL AND BUSINESS OFFICES, KINGSTON, NEW YORK 

Next issue on sale March 11th 




A CHAT WITH 
THE EDITOR 

IN JANUARY 1952 a new science 
fiction magazine called IF was born 
and appeared quietly and un- 
heralded on the newsstands. With 
this issue, that magazine is one year 
old. Actually, this is the first issue of 
the second year. Now, in the light 
of other magazines with tenures of 
20 or 10 or even five years, a first 
birthday isn't particularly impor- 
tant. But it is somewhat significant 
in the case of IF, because it seems 
to indicate— after a year of slow, 
steady growth — that the infant is 
going to live. 

During the past year we have 
worked hard to make each succeed- 
ing issue one of improvement. We 
have tried to secure better stories, 
better artwork, better editorial ef- 
fort in producing a more interest- 
ing, more attractive science fiction 
magazine for your entertainment. 
And when we compare Volume 2, 
Number 1 with Volume 1, Number 
1, we feel a certain amount of satis- 



faction. Not that the ultimate has 
been achieved by a long, long shot. 
Not that this issue represents the 
best we can do. But because we 
have learned and progressed with 
each succeeding issue and feel that 
this issue is an improvement over 
the first six. And the fact that circu- 
lation has responded to such nour- 
ishment seems to indicate that you, 
too, think it is improving. 

So this is IF's first birthday, and 
don't think we haven't walked the 
floor at night with it, incurred some 
sweet headaches and magnificent 
hangovers. We've had some won- 
derful fun, too. Also^ — we've found 
that a lot of swell people were will- 
ing to help with the feeding, the 
burping and diaper changing. 
Artists and writers and agents have 
been cooperative and willing; the 
printers have been patient and un- 
derstanding; the engravers always 
ready with a helping hand; the pa- 
per makers always prompt; some of 
the best circulation guys to ever 
handle a magazine have bent over 
backwards to put the baby out 
where you can see it; and you, 
sweet reader, have been indulgent 
and interested and willing enough 
to plunk down thirty-five cents in 
coin of the realm to take a look at 
the brat . . . All in all, a lot of nice 
people have had a hand in helping 
the infant IF learn to walk. Another 
year of this sort of attention and the 
kid'U be climbing fences'. 

INCIDENTALLY, one of the big 

stories in IF's young life is appear- 
ing in the next issue. It's called 
Jupiter Five and was written by 
Arthur C. Clarke, Chairman of 
the British Interplanetary Society. 



One of th(; world's authorities on 
the subject, Mr. Clarke has a 
iMDoth, friendly style of writing 
ili.it lends to a space adventure the 
i-asy familiarity of a walk around 
the block. His Exploration of 
Space was a Book-of-the-Month 
Club selection last fall. Ken Fagg, 
cover artist for this issue, is ( as this 
is written) reading the manuscript 
of Jupiter Five for a cover idea. 
Mr. Fagg, who recently caught the 
sc:ience fiction bug, is now a lead- 
ing artist in other fields and it's a 
pretty safe bet he'll soon be among 
the top artists in science fiction. 

NOT SO long ago I had my first op- 
portunity to meet personally a large 
representation of the real fandom 
of science fiction — a bunch of guys 
and gals who got to Chicago via 
train, bus, plane, auto, boat and 
pogo-stick to attend the 10th World 
Science Fiction Convention. And I 
was really amazed to see the hun- 
dreds of young folks so keenly (and 
rabidly) interested in science fic- 
tion. I had the pleasant experience 
of talking with quite a few and I 
found each one eager, alert, and 
wise as to what was happening in 
the world of science fiction. Many 
of them could tell you what illustra- 
tion appeared on what page of such 
and such magazine in an issUe that 
must have been published while 
they were about the same age as IF. 
They knew the latest stories, and 
the authors, when and where they 
appeared, and would tell you, with- 
out mincing words, what they 
thought of them. At the auction, a 
lot of them hocked the family 
homestead to take home a cover 
painting, an interior illustration or 



a manuscript. These young people 
(I'm not including the pros, the 
editors, agents, authors, etc.) came 
from all over the USA, and lots of 
them saved their own hard-earned 
cash for a year in order to make the 
trip. Unlike a business or political 
convention, they didn't stand to 
make money on this deal, they did 
it because they were crazy about 
science fiction. 

One who seemed to me to typi- 
fy the spirit of the convention is 
a gangling, blond, be-spectacled 
young man of nineteen named Jim 
Webbert. He is one of those who 
had been feeding the piggy bank 
for a year in order to make the trip 
— and believe me, brother, he 
wasn't going to miss a trick. He 
knew more about what was going 
on and where than the whole staff 
of house dicks ; he was up and down 
the hotel more than the elevators, 
and he could tell practically any- 
body what kind of cigarette he 
smoked, whether he preferred tea 
to coffee, and what his particular 
niche in science fiction happened to 
be. Jim lives in Salt La*e City, 
Utah, is a senior in college, where 
he is majoring in chemical engi- 
neering, and during the summer he 
has been working as a meter reader 
to earn expenses. While in high 
school he started reading science 
fiction — ^which decided him on 
chemical engineering as a career. I 
don't think it requires much of a 
prophet to predict he'll go a long ^ 
way. 

So I'm glad I met these yoimg 
people who represent science fiction 
fandom. I'm glad they live in 
America. I'm glad I'm working on 
a science fiction magazine. — ^jlq 



By Ivar Jorgenson 



Illustrated by Ed Emsh 




You're all alone in a deserted city. You walk down an 
empty street, yearning for the sight of one living face 
— one moving figure. Then you see a man on a corner 
and you know your terror has only begun. 



HE AWOKE slowly, like a man 
plodding knee-deep through 
the thick stuff of nightmares. There 
was no definite line between the 
dream-state and wakefulness. Only 
a dawning knowledge that he was 
finally conscious and would have to 
do something about it. 

He opened his eyes, but this made 



no difference. The blackness re- 
mained. The pain in his head 
brightened and he reached up and 
found the big lump they'd evidently 
put on his head for good measure — 
a margin of safety. 

They must have been prudent 
people, because the bang on the 
head had hardly been necessary. 




IVAR JORGENSON 



The spiked drink which they had 
given him would have felled an ox. 
He remembered going down into 
the darkness after drinking it, and 
of knowing what it was. He remem- 
bered the helpless feeling. 

It did not worry him now. He 
was a philosophical person, and the 
fact he was still alive cancelled out 
the drink and its result. He thought, 
with savor, of the chestnut-haired 
girl who had watched him take the 
drink. She had worn a very low 
bodice, and that was where his eyes 
had been at the last moment — on 
the beautiful, tanned breasts — until 
they'd wavered and puddled into a 
blur and then into nothing. 

The chestnut-haired girl had 
been nice, but now she was gone 
and there were more pressing prob- 
lems. 

He sat up, his hands behind him 
at the ends of stiff arms clawing 
into long-undisturbed dust and filth. 
His movement stirred the dust and 
it rose into his nostrils. 

He straightened and banged his 
head against a low ceiling. The pain 
made him sick for a minute and he 
sat down to regain his senses. He 
cursed the ceiling, as a matter of 
course, in an agonized whisper. 

Ready to move again, he got onto 
his hands and knees and crawled 
cautiously forward, exploring as he 
went. His hand pushed through 
cobwebs and found a rough, cement 
wall. He went around and around. 
It was all cement — all solid. 

Hell! They hadn't sealed him up 
in this place! There had been a way 
in so there had to be a way out. He 
went around again. 

Then he tried the ceiling and 
found the opening — a wooden trap 



covering a four-by-four hole — cov- 
ering it snugly. He pushed the trap 
away and daylight streamed in. He 
raised himself up until he was eye- 
level with a discarded shaving 
cream jar lying on the bricks of an 
alley. He could read the trade mark 
on the jar, and the slogan: "For the 
Meticulous Man". 

He pulled himself up into the al- 
ley. As a result of an orderly child- 
hood, he replaced the wooden trap 
and kicked the shaving cream jar 
against a garbage can. He rubbed 
his chin and looked up and down 
the alley. 

It was high noon. An uncovered 
sun blazed down to tell him this. 

And there was no one in sight. 



HE STARTED walking toward 
the nearer mouth of file alley. 
He had been in that hole a long 
time, he decided. This conviction 
came from his hunger and the 
heavy growth of beard he'd 
sprouted. Twenty-four hours — 
maybe longer. That mickey must 
have been a lulu. 

He walked out into the cross 
street. It was empty. No people — 
no cars parked at the curbs — only a 
cat washing its dirty face on a tene- 
ment stoop across the street. He 
looked up at the tenement windows. 
They stared back. There was an 
empty, deserted look about them. 

The cat flowed down the front 
steps of the tenement and away to- 
ward the rear and he was truly 
alone. He rubbed his harsh chin. 
Must be Sunday, he thought. Then 
he knew it could not be Sunday. 
He'd gone into the tavern on a 
Tuesday night. That would make it 



DEADLY CITY 



five days. Too long. 

He had been walking and now he 
•was at an intersection where he 
could look up and down a new 
street. There were no cars — no peo- 
ple. Not even a cat. 

A sign overhanging the sidewalk 
said: Restaurant. He went in un- 
der the sign and tried the door. It 
was locked. There were no lights in- 
side. He turned away— grinning to 
reassure himself. Everything was all 
right. Just some kind of a holiday. 
In a big city Hke Chicago the peo- 
ple go away on hot summer holi- 
days. They go to the beaches and 
the parks and sometimes you can't 
see a living soul on the streets. And 
of course you can't find any cars 
because the people use them to 
drive to the beaches and the parks 
and out into the country. He 
breathed a little easier and started 
walking again. 

Sure — that was it. Now what the 
hell holiday was it? He tried to re- 
member. He couldn't think of what 
holiday it could be. Maybe they'd 
dreamed up a new one. He grinned 
at that, but the grin was a little 
tight and he had to force it. He 
forced it carefully until his teeth 
showed white. 

Pretty soon he would come to a 
section where everybody hadn't 
gone to the beaches and the parks 
and a restaurant would be open and 
he'd get a good meal. 

A meal? He fumbled toward his 
pockets. He dug into them and 
found a handkerchief and a button 
from his cuff. He remembered that 
the button had hung loose so he'd 
pulled it off to keep from losing it. 
He hadn't lost the button, but 
everything else was gone. He 



scowled. The least they could have 
done was to leave a man eating 
money. 

He turned another corner — into 
another street — and it was like the 
one before. No cars — no people — 
not even any cats. 

Panic welled up. He stopped and 
whirled around to look behind him. 
No one was there. He walked in a 
tight circle, looking in all directions. 
Windows stared back at him — eyes 
that didn't care where everybody 
had gone or when they would come 
back. The windows could wait. The 
windows were not hungry. Their 
heads didn't ache. They weren't 
scared. 

He began walking and his path 
veered outward from the sidewalk 
until he was in the exact center of 
the silent street. He walked down 
the worn white line. When he got to 
the next corner he noticed that the 
traffic signals were not working. 
Black, empty eyes. 

His pace quickened. He walked 
faster — ever faster until he was 
trotting on the brittle pavement, his 
sharp steps echoing against the 
buildings. Faster. Another corner. 
And he was running, filled with 
panic, down the empty street. 



THE GIRL opened her eyes and 
stared at the ceiling. The ceiling 
was a blur but it began to clear as 
her mind cleared. The ceiling be- 
came a surface of dirty, cracked 
plaster and there was a feeling of 
dirt and squalor in her mind. 

It was always like that at these 
times of awakening, but doubly bit- 
ter now, because she had never 
expected to awaken again. She 



8 



IVAR JORGENSON 



reached dovm and pulled the 
wadded sheet from beneath her legs 
and spread it over them. She looked 
at the bottle on the shabby bed- 
table. There were three sleeping 
pills left in it. The girl's eyes 
clouded with resentment. You'd 
think seven pills would have done 
it. She reached down and took the 
sheet in both hands and drew it 
taut over her stomach. This was a 
gesture of frustration. Seven hadn't 
been enough, and here she was 
again — awake in the world she'd 
wanted to leave. Awake with the 
necessary edge of determination 
gone. 

She pulled the sheet into a wad 
and threw it at the wall. She got up 
and walked to the window and 
looked out. Bright daylight. She 
wondered how long she had slept. 
A long time, no doubt. 

Her naked thigh pressed against 
the windowsill and her bare stom- 
ach touched the dirty pane. Naked 
in the window, but it didn't matter, 
because it gave onto an airshaft and 
other windows so caked with grime 
as to be of no value as windows. 

But even aside from that, it 
didn't matter. It didn't matter in 
the least. 

She went to the washstand, her 
bare feet making no sound on the 
worn rug. She turned on the faucets, 
but no water came. No water, and 
she had a terrible thirst. She went 
to the door and had thrown the bolt 
before she remembered again that 
she was naked. She turned back 
and saw the half-empty Pepsi-Cola 
bottle on the floor beside the bed 
table. Someone else had left it there 
— how many nights ago? — but she 
drank it anyhow, and even though 



it was flat and warm it soothed her 
throat. 

She bent over to pick up gar- 
ments from the floor and dizziness 
came, forcing her to the edge of the 
bed. After a while it passed and she 
got her legs into one of the gar- 
ments and pulled it on. 

Taking cosmetics from her bag, 
she went again to the washstand 
and tried the taps. Still no water. 
She combed her hair, jerking the 
comb through the mats and gnarls 
with a satisfying viciousness. When 
the hair fell into its natural, blond 
curls, she applied powder and lip- 
stick. She went back to the bed, 
picked up her brassiere and began 
putting it on as she walked to the 
cracked, full-length mirror in the 
closet door. With the brassiere in 
place, she stood looking at her slim 
image. She assayed herself with 
complete impersonaUty. 

She shouldn't look as good as she 
did — ^not after the beating she'd 
taken. Not after the long nights and 
the days and the years, even though 
the years did not add up to very 
many. 

I could be someone's wife, she 
thought, with wry humor. I could 
be sending kids to school and going 
out to argue with the grocer about 
the tomatoes being too soft. I don't 
look bad at all. 

She raised her eyes until they 
were staring into their own images 
in the glass and she spoke aloud in 
a low, wondering voice. She said, 
"Who the hell am I, anyway? Who 
am I? A body named Linda— that's 
who I am. No — that's what 1 am. 
A body's not a who — it's a what. 
One hundred and fourteen pounds 
of well-built blond body called Lin- 



DEADLY CITY 



da — model 1931 — ^no fender dents 
— nice paint job. Come in and drive 
me away. Price tag — " 

She bit into the lower lip she'd 
just finished reddening and turned 
quickly to walk to the bed and wrig- 
gle into her dress — a gray and green 
cotton — the only one she had. She 
picked up her bag and went to the 
door. There she stopped to turn 
and thumb her nose at the three 
sleeping pills in the bottle before 
she went out and closed the door 
after herself. 

The desk clerk was away from 
the cubbyhole from which he pre- 
sided over the lobby, and there were 
no loungers to undress her as she 
walked toward the door. 

Nor was there anyone out in the 
street. The girl looked north and 
south. No cars in sight either. No 
buses waddling up to the curb to 
spew out passengers. 

The girl went five doors north 
and tried to enter a place called 
Tim's Hamburger House. As the 
lock held and the door refused to 
open, she saw that there were no 
lights on inside — no one behind the 
counter. The place was closed. 

She walked on down the street 
followed only by the lonesome 
sound of her own clicking heels. 
All the stores were closed. All the 
lights were out. 

All the people were gone. 



HE WAS a huge man, and the 
place of concealment of the 
Chicago Avenue police station was 
very small — merely an indentation 
low in the cement wall behind two 
steam pipes. The big man had lain 
in this niche for forty-eight hours. 



He had slugged a man over the turn 
of a card in a poolroom pinochle 
game, had been arrested in due 
course, and was awaiting the dis- 
posal of his case. 

He was sorry he had slugged the 
man. He had not had any deep 
hatred for him, but rather a rage of 
the moment that demanded vio- 
lence as its outlet. Although he did 
not consider it a matter of any great 
importance, he did not look for- 
ward to the six month's jail sen- 
tence he would doubtless be given. 

His opportunity to hide in the 
niche had come as accidentally and 
as suddenly as his opportunity to 
slug his card partner. It had come 
after the prisoners had been advised 
of the crisis and were being herded 
into vans for transportation else- 
where. He had snatched the oppor- 
tunity without giving any considera- 
tion whatever to the crisis. Probably 
because he did not have enough 
imagination to fear anything — how- 
ever terrible^which might occur in 
the future. And because he treas- 
ured his freedom above all else. 
Freedom for today, tomorrow could 
take care of itself. 

Now, after forty-eight hours, he 
writhed and twisted his huge body 
out of the niche and onto the floor 
of the furnace room. His legs were 
numb and he found that he could 
not stand. He managed to sit up 
and was able to bend his back 
enough so his great hands could 
reach his legs and begin to massage 
life back into them. 

So elementally brutal was this 
man that he pounded his legs until 
they were black and blue, before 
feeling returned to them. In a few 
minutes he was walking out of the 



10 



IVAR JORGENSON 



lurnacf room through a jail house 
which should now be utterly de- 
-I iii'd. But was it? He went slowly, 
'_;li(ling along close to the walls to 
iiach the front door unchallenged. 

1 le walked out into the street. It 
was daylight and the street was 
completely deserted. The man took 
a deep breath and grinned. "I'll be 
damned," he muttered. "I'll be 
double and triple damned. They're 
all gone. Every damn one of them 
run off like rats and I'm the only 
one left. I'll be damned!" 

A tremendous sense of exultation 
seized him. He clenched his fists 
and laughed loud, his laugh echoing 
up the street. He was happier than 
he had ever been in his quick, vio- 
lent life. And his joy was that of a 
child locked in a pantry with a huge 
chocolate cake. 

He rubbed a hand across his 
mouth, looked up the street, began 
walking. "I wonder if they took all 
the whisky with them," he said. 
Then he grinned; he was sure they 
had not. 

He began walking in long strides 
toward Clark Street. In toward the 
still heart of the empty city. 



HE WAS a slim, pale-skinned 
little man, and very danger- 
ous. He was also very clever. Even- 
tually they would have found out, 
but he had been clever enough to 
deceive them and now they would 
never know. There was great wealth 
in his family, and with the rest of 
them occupied with leaving the city 
and taking what valuables they 
ctould on such short notice, he had 
been put in charge of one of the 
chauH'eurs. 



The chauffeur had been given 
the responsibility of getting the 
pale-skinned young man out of the 
city. But the young man had caused 
several delays until all the rest were 
gone. Then, meekly enough, he had 
accompanied the chauffeur to the 
garage. The chauffeur got behind 
the wheel of the last remaining car 
— a Cadillac sedan — and the young 
man had gotten into the rear seat. 

But before the chauffeur could 
start the motor, the young man hit 
him on the head with a tire bar he 
had taken from a shelf as they had 
entered the garage. 

The bar went deep into the 
chauffeur's skull with a solid sound, 
and thus the chauffeur found the 
death he was in the very act of flee- 
ing. 

The young man pulled the dead 
chauffeur from the car and laid him 
on the cement floor. He laid him 
down very carefully, so that he was 
in the exact center of a large square 
of outlined cement with his feet 
pointing straight north and his out- 
stretched arms pointing south. 

The young man placed the 
chauffeur's cap very carefully upon 
his chest, because neatness pleased 
him. Then he got into the car, 
started it, and headed east toward 
Lake Michigan and the downtown 
section. 

After traveling three or four 
miles, he turned the car off the road 
and drove it into a telephone post. 
Then he walked until he came to 
some high weeds. He lay dowft in 
the weeds and waited. 

He knew there would probably 
be a last vanguard of militia hunt- 
ing for stragglers. If they saw a 
moving car they would investigate. 



DEADLY CITY 



n 



They would take him into custody 
and force him to leave the city. 

This, he feltj they had no right to 
do. All his life he had been ordered 
about— told to do this and that and 
the other thing. Stupid orders from 
stupid people. Idiots who went so 
far as to claim the whole city would 
be destroyed, just to make people do 
as they said, God! The ends to 
which stupid people would go in or- 
der to assert their wills over brilliant 
people. 

The young man lay in the weeds 
and dozed off, his mind occupied 
with the pleasant memory of the tire 
iron settling into the skull of the 
chauffeur. 

After a while he awoke and heard 
the cars of the last vanguard passing 
down the road. They stopped, in- 
spected the Cadillac and found it 
serviceable. They took it with them, 
but they did not search the weeds 
along the road. 

When they had disappeared to- 
ward the west, the young man came 
back to the road and began walk- 
ing east, in toward the city. 

Complete destruction in two 
days? 

Preposterous. 

The young man smiled. 



THE GIRL was afraid. For 
hours she had walked the 
streets of the empty city and the 
fear, strengthened by weariness, was 
now mounting toward terror. "One 
face," she whispered. "Just one per- 
son coming out of a house or walk- 
ing across the street. That's all I 
ask. Somebody to tell me what this 
is all about. If I can find one per- 
son, I won't be afraid any more." 



And the irony of it struck her. A 
few hours previously she had at- 
tempted suicide. Sick of herself and 
of all people, she had tried to end 
her own life. Therefore, by ac- 
knowledging d€ath as the answer, 
she should now have no fear what- 
ever of anything. Reconciled to 
crossing the bridge into death, no 
facet of life should have held terror 
for her. 

But the empty city did hold ter- 
ror. One face — one moving form 
was all she asked for. 

Then, a second irony. When she 
saw the man at the corner of Wash- 
ington and Wells, her terror in- 
creased. They saw each other at 
almost the same moment. Both 
stopped and stared. Fingers of 
panic ran up the girl's spine. The 
man raised a hand and the spell 
was broken. The girl turned and 
ran, and there was more terror in 
her than there had been before. 

She knew how absurd this was, 
but still she ran blindly. What had 
she to fear? She knew all about 
men; all the things men could do 
they had already done to her. Mur- 
der was the ultimate, but she was 
fresh from a suicide attempt. Death 
should hold no terrors for her. 

She thought of these things as the 
man's footsteps sounded behind her 
and she turned into a narrow alley 
seeking a hiding place. She found 
none and the man turned in after 
her. 

She found a passageway, entered 
with the same blindness which had 
brought her into the alley. There 
was a steel door at the end and a 
brick lying by the sill. The door was 
locked. She picked up the brick 
and turned. The man skidded on 



12 



IVAR JORGENSON 



the filthy alley surface as he turned 
into the areaway. 

The girl raised the brick over her 
head. "Keep away! Stay away from 
me!" 

"Wait a minute! Take it easy. 
I'm not going to hurt you!" 

"Get away!" 

Her arm moved downward. The 
man rushed in and caught her wrist. 
The brick went over his shoulder 
and the nails of her other hand 
raked his face. He seized her with- 
out regard for niceties and they 
went to the ground. She fought 
with everything she had and he 
methodically neutralized all her 
weapons- — her hands, her legs, her 
teeth — until she could not move. 

"Leave me alone. Please!" 

"What's wrong with you? I'm not 
going to hurt you. But I'm not go- 
ing to let you hit me with a brick, 
either!" 

"What do you want? Why did 
you chase me?" 

"Look — I'm a peaceful guy, but 
I'm not going to let you get away. I 
spent all afternoon looking for 
somebody. I found you and you 
ran away. I came after you." 

"I haven't done anything to 
you." 

"That's silly talk. Come on — 
grow up! I said I'm not going to 
hurt you." 

"Let me up." 

"So you can run away again? Not 
for a while. I want to talk to you." 

"I — I won't run. I was scared. 
I don't know why. You're hurting 
me." 

He got up — gingerly — and lifted 
her to her feet. He smiled, still hold- 
ing both her hands. "I'm sorry. I 
guess it's natural for you to be 



scared. My name's Frank Brooks. 
I just want to find out what the hell 
happened to this town." 

He let her withdraw her hands, 
but he still blocked her escape. She 
moved a pace backward and 
straightened her clothing. "I don't 
know what happened. I was look- 
ing for someone too." 

He smiled again. "And then you 
ran." 

"I don't know why. I guess — " 

"What's your name." 

"Nora— Nora Spade." 

"You slept through it too?" 

"Yes . . . yes. I slept through it 
and came out and they were all 
gone." 

"Let's get out of this alley." He 
preceded her out, but he waited for 
her when there was room for them 
to walk side by side, and she did not 
try to run away. That phase was 
evidently over. 

"I got slipped a mickey in a tav- 
ern," Frank Brooks said. "Then 
they slugged me and put me in a 
hole." 

His eyes questioned. She felt their 
demand and said, "I was — asleep 
in my hotel room." 

"They overlooked you?" 

"I guess so." 

"Then you don't know anything 
about it?" 

"Nothing. Something terrible 
must have happened." 

"Let's go down this way," Frank 
said, and they moved toward Madi- 
son Street. He had taken her arm 
and she did not pull away. Rather, 
she walked invitingly close to him. 

She said, "It's so spooky. So . . . 
empty. I guess that's what scared 
me." 

"It would scare anybody. There 



DEADLY CITY 



13 



must have been an evacuation of 
some kind." 

"Maybe the Russians are going 
to drop a bomb." 

Frank shook his head. "That 
wouldn't explain it. I mean, the 
Russians wouldn't let us know 
ahead of time. Besides, the army 
would be here. Everybody wouldn't 
be gone." 

"There's been a lot of talk about 
germ warfare. Do yOu suppose the 
water, maybe, has been poisoned?" 

He shook his head. "The same 
thing holds true. Even if they 
moved the people out, the army 
would be here." 

"I don't know. It just doesn't 
make sense." 

"It happened, so it has to make 
sense. It was something that came 
up all of a sudden. They didn't 
have much more than twenty-four 
hours." He stopped suddenly and 
looked at her. "We've got to get out 
of here!" 

Nora Spade smiled for the first 
time, but without humor. "How? I 
haven't seen one car. The buses 
aren't running." 

His mind was elsewhere. They 
had started walking again. "Funny 
I didn't think of that before." 

"Think of what?" 

"That anybody left in this town 
is a dead pigeon. The only reason 
they'd clear out a city would be to 
get away from certain death. That 
would mean death is here for any- 
body that stays. Funny. I was so 
-busy looking for somebody to talk 
to that I never thought of that." 

"I did." 

"Is that what you were scared 
of?" 

"Not particularly. I'm not afraid 



to die. It was something else that 
scared me. The aloneness, I guess." 

"We'd better start walking west 
— out of the city. Maybe we'll find 
a car or something." 

"I don't think we'll find any 
cars." 

He drew her to a halt and looked 
into her face. "You aren't afraid at 
all, are you?" 

She thought for a moment. "No, 
I guess I'm not. Not of dying, that 
is. Dying is a normal thing. But I 
was afraid of the empty streets — no- 
body around. That was weird." 

"It isn't weird now?" 

"Not— not as much." 

"I wonder how much time we've 
got?" 

Nora shrugged. "I don't know, 
but I'm hungry." 

"We can fix that. I broke into a 
restaurant a few blocks back and 
got myself a sandwich. I think 
there's still food around. They 
couldn't take it all with them." 

They were on Madison Street 
and they turned east on the south 
side of the street. Nora said, "I 
wonder if there are any other peo- 
ple still here — like us?" 

"I think there must be. Not very 
many, but a few. They would have 
had to clean four million people 
out overnight. It stands to reason 
they must have missed a few. Did 
you ever try to empty a sack of 
sugar? Really empty it? It's im- 
possible. Some of the grains always 
stick to the sack." 

A few minutes later the wisdom 
of this observation was proven 
when they came to a restaurant 
with the front window broken out 
and saw a man and a woman sit- 
ting at one of the tables. 



14 



IVAR JORGENSON 



HE WAS a huge man with a 
shock of black hair and a 
mouth slightly open showing a set 
of incredibly white teeth. He waved 
an arm and shouted, "Come on in! 
Come on in for crissake and sit 
down! We got beer and roast beef 
and the beer's still cold. Come on in 
and meet Minna." 

This was different, Nora thought. 
Not eerie. Not weird, like seeing a 
man standing on a deserted street 
corner with no one else around. 
This seemed normal, natural, and 
even the smashed window didn't 
detract too much from the natural- 
ness. 

They went inside. There were 
chairs at the table and they sat 
down. The big man did not get up. 
He waved a hand toward his com- 
panion and said, "This is Minna. 
Ain't she something? I found her 
sitting at an empty bar scared to 
death. We came to an understand- 
ing and I brought her along." He 
grinned ai the woman and winked. 
"We came to a real understanding, 
didn't we, Minna?" 

, Minna was a completely colorless 
woman of perhaps thirty-five. Her 
skin was smooth and pale and she 
wore no makeup of any kind. Her 
hair was drawn straight back into a 
bun. The hair had no predominat- 
ing color. It was somewhere be- 
tween light brown and blond. 

She smiled a little sadly, but the 
laugh did not cover her worn, tired 
look. It seemed more like a gesture 
of obedience than anything else. 
"Yes. We came to an understand- 
mg. 

"I'm Jim Wilson," the big man 
boomed. "I was in the Chicago 
Avenue jug for slugging a guy in a 



card game. They kind of over- 
looked me when they cleaned the 
joint out." He winked again. "I 
kind of helped them overlook me. 
Then I found Minna." There was 
tremendous relish in his words. 

Frank started introductions 
which Nora Spade cut in on. "May- 
be you know what happened?" she 
asked. 

Wilson shook his head. "I was in 
the jug and they didn't tell us. They 
just started cleaning out the joint. 
There was talk in the bullpen — in- 
vasion or something. Nobody knew 
for sure. Have some beer and 
meat." 

Nora tumd to the quiet Minna. 
"Did you hear anything?" 

"Naw," Wilson said with a kind 
of affectionate contempt. "She 
don't know anything about it. She 
lived in some attic dump and was 
down with a sore throat. She took 
some pills or something and when 
she woke up they were gone." 

"I went to work and — " Minna 
began, but Wilson cut her off. 

"She swabs out some joints on 
Chicago Avenue for a living and 
that was how she happened to be 
sitting in that tavern. It's payday, 
and Minna was waiting for her 
dough!" He exploded into laughter 
and slapped the table with a huge 
hand. "Can you beat that? Waiting 
for her pay at a time like this." 

Frank Brooks set down his beer 
bottle. The beer was cold and it 
tasted good. "Have you met any- 
body else? There must be some 
other people around." 

"Uh-uh. Haven't met anybody 
but Minna," He turned his eyes on 
the woman again, then got to his 
feet. "Come on, Minna. You and 



DEADLY CITY 



15 



I got to have a little conference. We 
got things to talk about." Grinning, 
he walked toward the rear of the 
restaurant. Minna got up more 
slowly. She followed him behind 
the counter and into the rear of the 
place. 

Alone with Nora, Frank said, 
"You aren't eating. Want me to 
look for something else?" 

"No — I'm not very hungry. I 
was just wondering — " 

"Wondering about what?" 

"When it will happen. When 
whatever is going to happen — ^you 
know what I mean." 

"I'd rather know what's going to 
happen. I hate puzzles. It's hell to 
have to get killed and not know 
what killed you." 

"We aren't being very sensible, 
are we?" 

"How do you mean?" 

"We should at least act normal." 

"I don't get it." 

Nora frowned in slight annoy- 
ance. "Normal people would be 
trying to reach safety. They 
wouldn't be sitting in a restaurant 
drinking beer. We should be trying 
to get away. Even if it does mean 
walking. Normal people would be 
trying to get away." 

Frank stared at his bottle for a 
moment. "We should be scared 
stiff, shouldn't we?" 

It was Nora's turn to ponder. 
"I'm not sure. Maybe not. I know 
I'm not fighting anything inside — 
fear, I mean. I just don't seem to 
care one way or another." 

"I care," Frank replied. "I care. 
I don't want to die. But we're faced 
with a situation, and either way it's 
a gamble. We might be dead before 
I finish this bottle of beer. If that's 



true, why not sit here and be com- 
fortable? Or we might have time to 
walk far enough to get out of range 
of whatever it is that chased every- 
body." 

"Which way do you think it is?" 

"I don't think we have time to 
get out of town. They cleaned it out 
too fast. We'd need at least four or 
five hours to get away. If we had 
that much time the army, or who- 
ever did it, would still be around." 

"Maybe they didn't know them- 
selves when it's going to happen." 

He made an impatient gesture. 
"What difference does it make? 
We're in a situation we didn't ask 
to get in. Our luck put us here and 
I'm damned if I'm going to kick a 
hole in the ceiling and yell for 
help." 

Nora was going to reply, but at 
that moment Jim Wilson came 
striding out front. He wore his big 
grin and he carried another half- 
dozen bottles of beer. "Minna'll be 
out in a minute," he said. "Women 
are always slower than hell." 

He dropped into a chair and 
snapped the cap off a beer bottle 
with his thumb. He held the bottle 
up and squinted through it, sighing 
gustily. "Man! I ain't never had it 
so good." He tilted the bottle in sa- 
l<ute, and drank. 



THE SUN was lowering in the 
west now, and when Minna re- 
appeared it seemed that she ma- 
terialized from the shadows, so 
quietly did she move. Jim Wilson 
opened another bottle and put it 
before her. "Here — ^have a drink, 
baby." 



16 



IVAR JORGENSON 



Obediently, she tilted the bottle 
and drank. 

"What do you plan to do?" 
Frank asked. 

"It'll be dark soon," Wilson said. 
"We ought to go out and try to 
scrounge some flashlights. I bet the 
power plants are dead. Probably 
aren't any flashlights either." 

"Are you going to stay here?" 
Nora asked. "Here in the Loop?" 

He seemed surprised. "Why not? 
A man'd be a fool to walk out on all 
this. All he wants to eat and drink. 
No goddam cops around. The life 
of Reilly and I should walk out?" 

"Aren't you afraid of what's go- 
ing to happen?" 

"I don't give a good goddam 
what's going to happen. What the 
hell! Something's always going to 
happen." 

"They didn't evacuate the city 
for nothing," Frank said. 

"You mean we can all get 
killed?" Jim Wilson laughed. "Sure 
we can. We could have got killed 
last week too. We could of got 
batted in the can by a truck any- 
time we crossed the street." He 
emptied his bottle, threw it accu- 
rately at a mirror over the cash 
register. The crash was thunderous. 
"Trouble with you people, you're 
worry warts," he said with an ex- 
pansive grin. "Let's go get us some 
flashlights so we can find our way to 
bed in one of those fancy hotels." 

He got to his feet and Minna 
arose also, a little tired, a little ap- 
prehensive, but entirely submissive. 
Jim Wilson said, "Come on, baby. 
I sure won't want to lose you." He 
grinned at the others. "You guys 
coming?" 

Frank's eyes met Nora's. He 



shrugged. "Why not?" he said. 
"Unless you want to start walking." 

"I'm too tired," Nora said. 

As they stepped out through the 
smashed window, both Nora and 
Frank half-expected to see other 
forms moving up and down Madi- 
son Street. But there was no one. 
Only the unreal desolation of the 
lonely pavement and the dark-win- 
dowed buildings. 

"The biggest ghost town on 
earth," Frank muttered. 

Nora's hand had slipped into 
Frank's. He squeezed it and neither 
of them seemed conscious of the 
contact. 

"I wonder," Nora said. "Maybe 
this is only one of them. Maybe all 
the other big cities are evacuated 
too." 

Jim Wilson and Minna were 
walking ahead. He turned. "If you 
two can't sleep without finding out 
what's up, it's plenty easy to do." 

"You think we could find a bat- 
tery radio in some store?" Frank 

"Hell nol They'll all be gone. But 
all you'd have to do is snoop around 
in some newspaper office. If you 
can read you can find out what 
happened." 

It seemed strange to Frank that 
he had not thought of this. Then he 
realized he hadn't tried very hard 
to think of anything at all. He was 
surprised, also, at his lack of fear. 
He's gone through Hfe pretty much 
taking things as they came — as big 
a sucker as the next man — ^making 
more than his quota of mistakes and 
blunders. Finding himself complete- 
ly alone' in a deserted city for the 
first time in his life, he had natural- 
ly fallen prey to sudden fright. But 



DEADLY CITY 



17 



that had gradually passed, and now 
he was able to accept the new real- 
ity fairly passively. He wondered if 
that wasn't pretty much the way of 
all people. New situations brought 
a surge of whatever emotion fitted 
the picture. Then the emotion sub- 
sided and the new thing became the 
ordinary. 

This, he decided, was the manner 
in which humanity survived. Hu- 
manity took things as they came. 
Pile on enough of anything and it 
becomes the ordinary. 

Jim Wilson had picked up a gar- 
bage box apd hurled it through the 
window of an electric shop. The 
glass came down with a crash that 
shuddered up the empty darkening 
street and grumbled off into silence. 
Jim Wilson went inside. "I'll see 
what I can find. You stay out here 
and watch for cops." His laughter 
echoed out as he disappeared. 

Minna stood waiting silently, un- 
moving, and somehow she re- 
minded Frank of a dumb animal; 
an unreasoning creature with no 
mind of her own, waiting for a sig- 
nal from her master. Strangely, he 
resented this, but at the same time 
could find no reason for his resent- 
ment, except the feeling that no one 
should appear as much a slave as 
Minna. 

Jim Wilson reappeared in the 
window. He motioned to Minna. 
"Come on in, baby. You and me's 
got to have a little conference." His 
exaggerated wink was barely per- 
ceptible in the gloom as Minna 
stepped over the low sill into the 
store. "Won't be long, folks," Wil- 
son said in high good humor, and 
the two of them vanished into the 
darkness beyond. 



Frank Brooks glanced at Nora, 
but her face was turned away. He 
cursed softy under his breath. He 
said, "Wait a minute," and went 
into the store through the huge, 
jagged opening. 

Inside, he could barely make out 
the counters. The place was larger 
than it had appeared from the out- 
side. Wilson and Minna were no- 
where about. 

Frank found the counter he was 
looking for and pawed out several 
flashlights. They were only empty 
tubes, but he found a case of bat- 
teries in a panel compartment 
against the wall. 

"Who's there?" 

"Me. I came in for some flash- 
lights." 

"Couldn't you wait?" 

"It's getting dark." 

"You don't have to be so damn 
impatient." Jim Wilson's voice was 
hostile and surly. 

Frank stifled his quick anger. 
"We'll be outside," he said. He 
found Nora waiting where he'd left 
her. He loaded batteries into four 
flashlights before Jim Wilson and 
Minna reappeared. 

Wilson's good humor was back. 
"How about the Morrison or the 
Sherman," he said. "Or do you 
want to get real ritzy and walk up 
to the Drake?" 

"My feet hurt," Minna said. The 
woman spoke so rarely, Frank 
Brooks was startled by her words. 

"Morrison's the closest," Jim 
Wilson said. "Let's go." He took 
Minna by the arm and swung off 
up the street. Frank and Nora fell 
in behind. 

Nora shivered. Frank, holding 
her arm, asked, "Cold?" 



18 



IVAR JORGENSON 



"No. It's just all — unreal again." 

"I see what you mean." 

"I never expected to see the Loop 
dark. I can't get used to it." 

A vagrant, whispering wind 
picked up a scrap of paper and 
whirled it along the street. It caught 
against Nora's ankle. She jerked 
perceptibly and kicked the scrap 
away. The wind caught it again and 
spiralled it away into the darkness. 

"I want to tell you something," 
she said. 

"Tell away." 

"I told you before that I slept 
through the— the evacuation, or 
whatever it was. That wasn't exact- 
ly true. I did sleep through it, but 
it was my fault. I put myself to 
sleep." 

"I don't get it." 

"I tried to kill myself. Sleeping 
tablets. Seven of them. They 
weren't enough." 

Frank said nothing while they 
paced off ten steps through the dark 
canyon that was Madison Street. 
Nora wondered if he had heard. 

"I tried to commit suicide." 

"Why?" 

"I was tired of life, I guess." 

"What do you want — sym- 
pathy?" 

The sudden harshness in his 
voice brought her eyes around, but 
his face was a white blur. 

"No — no, I don't think so." 

"Well, you won't get it from me. 
Suicide is silly. You can have trou- 
bles and all that— everybody has 
them — ^but suicide — why did you 
try it?" 

A high, thin whine — a wordless 
vibration of eloquence — needled 
out of the darkness into their ears. 
The shock was like a sudden shower 



of ice water dashed over their 
bodies. Nora's fingers dug into 
Frank's arm, but he did not feel the 
cutting nails. "We're — there's some- 
one out there in the street!" 



TWENTY-FIVE feet ahead of 
where Frank and Nora stood 
frozen there burst the booming 
voice of Jim Wilson. "What the 
hell was that?" And the shock was 
dispelled. The white circle from 
Wilson's flash bit out across the 
blackness to outline movement on 
the far side of the street. Then 
Frank Brook's light, and Nora's, 
went exploring. 

"There's somebody over there," 
Wilson bellowed. "Hey, you! Show 
your face! Quit sneaking around!" 

Frank's light swept an arc that 
clearly outlined the buildings across 
the street and then weakened as it 
swung westward. There was some- 
thing or someone back there, but 
obscured by the dimness. He was 
swept by a sense of unreality again. 

"Did you see them?" 

Nora's light beam had dropped 
to her feet as though she feared to 
point it out into the darkness. "I 
thought I saw something." 

Jim Wilson was swearing indus- 
triously. "There was a guy over 
there. He ducked around the cor- 
ner. Some damn fool out scroung- 
ing. Wish I had a gun." 

Frank and Nora moved ahead 
and the four stood in a group. "Put 
out your lights," Wilson said. "They 
make good targets if the jerk's got 
any weapons." 

They stood in the darkness, Nora 
holding tightly to Frank's arm. 
Frank said, "That was the damnd- 



DEADLY CITY 



19 



est noise I ever heard." 

"Like a siren?" Frank thought 
Jim Wilson spoke hopefully, as 
though wanting somebody to agree 
with him. 

"Not like any I ever heard. Not 
like a whistle, either. More of a 
moan." 

"Let's get into that goddam hotel 
and—" 

Jim Wilson's words were cut ofT 
by a new welling-up of the melan- 
choly howling. It had a new pat- 
tern this time. It sounded from 
many places; not nearer, Frank 
thought, than Lake Street on the 
north, but spreading outward and 
backward and growing fainter until 
it died on the wind. 

Nora was shivering, clinging to 
Frank without reserve. 

Jim Wilson said, "I'll be damned 
if it doesn't sound like a signal of 
some kind." 

"Maybe it's a language — a way of 
communication." 

"But who the hell's communicat- 
ing?" 

"How would I know?" 

"We best get to that hotel and 
bar a few doors. A man can't fight 
in the dark — and nothing to fight 
with." 

They hurried up the street, but it 
was all different now. Gone was 
the illusion of being alone ; gone the 
sense of solitude. Around them the 
ghost town had come suddenly 
alive. Sinister forces more frighten- 
ing than the previous solitude had 
now to be reckoned with. 

"Something's happened — some- 
thing in the last few minutes," Nora 
whispered. 

Frank leaned close as they crossed 
the street to the dark silent pile that 



was the Morrison hotel. "I think I 
know what you mean." 

"It's as though there was no one 
around and then, suddenly, they 
came." 

"I think they came and went 
away again." 

"Did you actually see anyone 
when you flashed your light?" 

"No — I can't say positively that I 
did. But I got the impression there 
were figures out there — at least doz- 
ens of them— and that they moved 
back away from the light. Always 
just on the edge of it." 

"I'm scared, Frank." 

"So am I." 

"Do you think it could all be 
imagination?" 

"Those moans? Maybe the first 
one — I've heard of people imagin- 
ing sounds. But not the last ones. 
And besides, we all heard them." 

Jim Wilson, utterly oblivious of 
any subtle emanations in the air, 
boomed out in satisfaction: "We 
don't have to bust the joint open. 
The revolving door works." 

"Then maybe we ought to be 
careful," Frank said. "Maybe some- 
body else is around here." 

"Could be. We'll find out." 

"Why are we afraid?" Nora whis- 
pered. 

"It's natural, isn't it?" Frank 
melted the beam of his light with 
that of Jim Wilson. The white fin- 
ger pierced the darkness inside. 
Nothing moved. 

"I don't see why it should be. If 
there are people in there they must 
be as scared as we are." 

Nora was very close to him as 
they entered. 

The lobby seemed deserted. The 
flashlight beams scanned the empty 



20 



IVAR JORGENSON 



chairs and couches. The glass of the 
deserted cages threw back reflec- 
lions. 

"The keys are in there," Frank 
said. He vaulted the desk and 
scanned the numbers under the 
pigeon holes. 

"We'd better stay down low," 
Jim Wilson said. "Damned if I'm 
going to climb to the penthouse." 

"How about the fourth floor?" 

"That's plenty high enough." 

Frank came out with a handful 
of keys. "Odd numbers," he said. 
"Four in a row." 

' "Well I'll be damned," Jim Wil- 
son muttered. But he said no more 
and they climbed the stairs in si- 
lence. They passed the quiet dining 
rooms and banquet halls, and by 
the time they reached the fourth 
floor the doors giving off the corri- 
dors had assumed a uniformity. 

"Here they are." He handed a 
key to Wilson. "That's the end 
one." He said nothing as he gave 
Minna her key, but Wilson grunted, 
"For crissake!" in a disgusted voice, 
took Minna's key and threw it on 
the floor. 

Frank and Nora watched as Wil- 
son unlocked his door. Wilson 
turned. "Well, goodnight all. If 
you get goosed by any spooks, just 
yell." 

Minna followed him without a 
word and the door closed. 

Frank handed Nora her key. 
"Lock your door and you'll be safe. 
I'll check the room first." He un- 
locked the door and flashed his light 
inside. Nora was close behind him 
as he entered. He checked the bath- 
room. "Everything clear. Lock your 
door and you'll be safe." 

"Frank." 



"Yes?" 

"I'm afraid to stay alone." 

"You mean you want me to — " 

"There are two beds here." 

His reply was slow in coming. 
Nora didn't wait for it. Her voice 
rose to the edge of hysteria. "Quit 
being so damned righteous. Things 
have changed! Can't you realize 
that? What does it matter how or 
where we sleep? Does the world 
care? Will it make a damn bit of 
difference to the world whether I 
strip stark naked in front of you?" 
A sob choked in her throat. "Or 
would that outrage your morality." 

He moved toward her, stopped 
six inches away. "It isn't that. For 
God's sake! I'm no saint. It's just 
that I thought you — " 

"I'm plain scared, and I don't 
want to be alone. To me that's all 
that's important." 

Her face was against his chest 
and his arms went around her. But 
her own hands were fists held to- 
gether against him until he could 
feel her knuckles, hard, against his 
chest. She was crying, 

"Sure," Frank said. "I'll stay 
with you. Now take it easy. Every- 
thing's going to be all right." 

Nora sniffled without bothering 
to reach for ' her handkerchief. 
"Stop lying. You know it isn't going 
to be all right." 

Frank was at somewhat of a loss. 
This flareup of Nora's was entirely 
unexpected. He eased toward the 
place the flashlight had shown the 
bed to be. Her legs hit its edge and 
she sat down. 

"You — ^you want me to sleep in 
the other one?" he asked. 

"Of course," Nora replied with 
marked bitterness. "I'm afraid you 



DEADLY CITY 



wouldn't be very comfortable in 
with me." 

There was a time of silence. 
Frank took off his jacket, shirt and 
trousers. It was funny, he thought. 
He'd spent his money, been 
drugged, beaten and robbed as a re- 
sult of one objective — to get into a 
room alone with a girl. And a girl 
not nearly as nice as Nora at that. 
Now, here he was alone with a real 
dream, and he was tongue-tied. It 
didn't make sense. He shrugged. 
Life was crazy sometimes. 

He heard the rustle of garments 
and wondered how much Nora was 
taking off. Then he dropped his 
trousers, forgotten, to the floor. 
"Did you hear that?" 

"Yes. It's that—" 

Frank went to the window, raised 
the sash. The moaning sound came 
in louder, but it was from far dis- 
tance. "I think that's out around 
Evanston," 

Frank felt a warmth on his cheek 
and he realized Nora was by his 
side, leaning forward. He put an 
arm around her and they stood un- 
moving in complete silence. Al- 
though their ears were straining for 
the sound coming down from the 
north, Frank could not be oblivious 
of the warm flesh under his hand. 

Nora's breathing was soft against 
his cheek. She said, "Listen to how 
it rises and falls. It's almost as 
though they were using it to talk 
with. The inflection changes," 

"I think that's what it is. It's 
coming from a lot of different 
places. It stops in some places and 
starts in others." 

"It's so — ^weird." 

"Spooky," Frank said, "but in a 
way it makes me feel better.'" 



"I don't see how it could." Nora 
pressed closer to him. 

"It does though, because of what 
I was afraid of. I had it figured out 
that the city was going to blow up 
— ^that a bomb had been planted 
that they couldn't find, or some- 
thing like that. Now, I'm pretty 
sure it's something else. I'm willing 
to bet we'll be alive in the morn- 
ing." 

Nora thought that over in si- 
lence. "If that's the way it is — if 
some kind of invaders are coming 
down from the north — isn't it 
stupid to stay here? Even if we are 
tired we ought to be trying to get 
away from them." 

"I was thinking the same thing. 
I'll go and talk to Wilson." 

They crossed the room together 
and he left her by the bed and went 
on to the door. Then he remem- 
bered he was in his shorts and went 
back and got his trousers. After 
he'd put them on, he wondered 
why he'd bothered. He opened the 
door. 

Something warned him — some 
instinct — or possibly his natural 
fear and caution coincided with 
the presence of danger. He heard 
the footsteps on the carpeting 
down the hall — soft, but unmis- 
takably footsteps. He called, "Wil- 
son — Wilson — that you?" 

The creature outside threw cau- 
tion to the winds, Frank sensed 
rather than heard a body hurtling 
toward the door. A shrill, mad 
laughter raked his ears and the 
weight of a body hit the door. 

Frank drew strength from pure 
panic as he threw his weight against 
the panel, but perhaps an inch or 
two from the latch the door 



22 



IVAR JORGENSON 



wavered from opposing strength. 
Through the narrow opening he 
could feel the hoarse breath of exer- 
tion in his face. Insane giggles and 
curses sounded through the black 
stillness. 

Frank had the wild conviction he 
was losing the battle, and added 
strength came from somewhere. He 
heaved and there was a scream and 
he knew he had at least one finger 
caught between the door and the 
jamb. He threw his weight against 
the door with frenzied effort and 
heard the squash of the finger. The 
voice kited up to a shriek of agony, 
like that of a wounded animal. 

Even with his life at stake, and 
the life of Nora, Frank could not 
deliberately slice the man's fingers 
off. Even as he fought the urge, and 
called himself a fool, he allowed 
the door to give slightly inward. 
The hand was jerked to safety. 

At that moment another door 
opened close by and Jim Wilson's 
voice boomed : "What the hell's go- 
ing on out here?" 

Simultaneous with this, racing 
footsteps receded down the hall and 
from the well of the stairway came 
a whining cry of pain. 

"Jumping jees!" Wilson bel- 
lowed. "We got company. We ain't 
alone!" 

"He tried to get into my room." 

"You shouldn't have opened the 
door. Nora okay?" 

"Yeah. She's all right." 

"Tell her to stay in her room. 
And you do the same. We'd be 
crazy to go after that coot in the 
dark. He'll keep 'til morning." 

Frank closed the door, double- 
locked it and went back to Nora's 
bed. He could hear a soft sobbing. 



He reached down and pulled back 
the covers and the sobbing came 
louder. Then he was down on the 
bed and she was in his arms. 

She cried until the panic sub- 
sided, while he held her and said 
nothing. After a while she got con- 
trol of herself. "Don't leave me, 
Frank," she begged. "Please don't 
leave me." 

He stroked her shoulder. "I 
won't," he whispered. 

They lay for a long time in utter 
silence, each seeking strength in the 
other's closeness. The silence was 
finally broken by Nora. 

"Frank?" 

"Yes." 

"Do you want me?" 

He did not answer. 

"If you want me you can have 
me, Frank." 

Frank said nothing. 

"I told you today that I tried to 
commit suicide. Remember?" 

"I remember." 

"That was the truth. I did it be- 
cause I was tired of everything. Be- 
cause I've made a terrible mess of 
things. I didn't want to go on liv- 

He remained silent, holding her. 

As she spoke again, her voice 
sharpened. "Can't you understand 
what I'm telling you? I'm no good! 
I'm just a bum! Other men have 
had me! Why shouldn't you? Why 
should you be cheated out of what 
other men have had?" 

He remained silent. After a few 
moments, Nora said, "For God's 
sake, talk! Say something!" 

"How do you feel about it now? 
Will you try again to kill yourself 
the next chance you get?" 

"No — no, I don't think I'll ever 



DEADLY CITY 



23 



try it again." 

"Then things must look better." 

"I don't know anything about 
that. I just don't want to do it 
now." 

She did not urge him this time 
and he was slow in speaking. "It's 
kind of funny. It really is. Don't 
get the idea I've got morals. I 
haven't. I've had my share of wom- 
en. I was working on one the night 
they slipped me the mickey — the 
night before I woke up to this tomb 
of a city. But now — tonight — its 
kind of different. I feel like I want 
to protect you. Is that strange?" 

"No," she said quietly. "I guess 
not." 

They lay there silently, their 
thoughts going off into the black- 
ness of the sepulchral night. After 
a long while, Nora's even breathing 
told him she was asleep. He got up 
quietly, covered her, and went to 
the other bed. 

But before he slept, the weird 
wailings from out Evanston way 
came again — rose and fell in that 
strange conversational cadence- 
then died away into nothing. 



FRANK AWOKE to the first fin- 
gers of daylight. Nora still slept. 
He dressed and stood for some mo- 
ments with his hand on the door 
knob. Then he threw the bolt and 
cautiously opened the door. 

The hallway was deserted. At 
this point it came to him forcibly 
that he was not a brave man. All his 
life, he realized, he had avoided 
physical danger and had refused to 
recognize the true reason for so do- 
ing. He had classified himself as a 
man who dodged trouble through 



good sense; that the truly civilized 
person went out of his way to keep 
the peace. 

He realized now that that atti- 
tude was merely salve for his ego. 
He faced the empty corridor and 
did not wish to proceed further. 
But stripped of the life-long alibi, 
he forced himself to walk through 
the doorway, close the door softly, 
and move toward the stairs. 

He paused in front of the door 
behind which Jim Wilson and Min- 
na were no doubt sleeping. He 
stared at it wistfully. It certainly 
would not be a mark of cowardice 
to get Jim Wilson up under circum- 
stances such as these. In fact, he 
would be a fool not to do so. 

Stubbornness forbade such a 
move, however. He walked softly 
toward the place where the hallway 
dead-ended and became a cross- 
corridor. He made the turn care- 
fully, pressed against one wall. 
There was no one in sight. He got 
to the stairway and started down. 

His muscles and nerves tightened 
with each step. When he reached 
the lobby he was ready to jump sky- 
high at the drop of a pin. 

But no one dropped any pins, 
and he reached the modernistic 
glass doorway to the drugstore with 
only silence screaming in his ears. 
The door was unlocked. One hinge 
squeaked slightly as he pushed the 
door inward. 

It was in the drugstore that 
Frank found signs of the fourth- 
floor intruder. An inside counter 
near the prescription department 
was red with blood. Bandages and 
first-aid supplies had been unboxed 
and thrown around with abandon. 
Here the man had no doubt admin- 



24 



IVAR JORGENSON 



istered to his smashed hand. 

But where had he gone? Asleep, 
probably, in one of the rooms up- 
stairs. Frank wished fervently for a 
weapon. Beyond doubt there was 
not a gun left in the Loop. 

A gun was not the only weapon 
ever created, though, and Frank 
searched the store and found a line 
of pocket knives still in neat boxes 
near the perfume counter. 

He picked four of the largest and 
found, also, a wooden-handled, 
lead-tipped bludgeon, used evi- 
dently for cracking ice. 

Thus armed, he went out through 
the revolving door. He walked 
through streets that were like death 
under the climbing sun. Through 
streets and canyons of dead build- 
ings upon which the new daylight 
had failed to shed life or diminish 
the terror of the night past. 

At Dearborn he found the door 
to the Tribune Public Service 
Building locked. He used the ice 
breaker to smash a glass door panel. 
The crash of the glass on the 
cement was an explosion in the 
screaming silence. He went inside. 
Here the sense of desolation was 
complete; brought sharply to focus, 
probably, by the pigeon holes filled 
with letters behind the want-ad 
counter. Answers to a thousand and 
one queries, waiting patiently for 
someone to come after them. 

Before going to the basement 
and the back files of the Chicago 
Tribune, Frank climbed to the sec- 
ond floor and found what he 
tlinuEjht might be there — a row of 
t('li'l\j)e machines with a file-board 
hooked to the side of each machine. 

Swiftly, he stripped the copy 
sheets off each board, made a bun- 



dle of them and went back down- 
stairs. He covered the block back 
to the hotel at a dog-trot, filled with 
a sudden urge to get back to the 
fourth floor as soon as possible. 

He stopped in the drugstore and 
filled his pockets with soap, a razor, 
shaving cream and face lotion. As 
an afterthought, he picked up a 
lavish cosmetic kit that retailed, ac- 
cording to the price tag, for thirty- 
eight dollars plus tax. 

He let himself back into the room 
and closed the door softly. Nora 
rolled over, exposing a shoulder and 
one breast. The breast held his gaze 
for a full minute. Then a feeling of 
guilt swept him and he went into 
the bathroom and closed the door. 

Luckily, a supply tank on the 
roof still contained water and 
Frank was able to shower and 
shave. Dressed again, he felt like a 
new man. But he regretted not 
hunting up a haberdashery shop 
and getting himself a clean shirt. 

Nora had still not awakened 
when he came out of the bathroom. 
He went to the bed and stood look- 
ing down at her for some time. 
Then he touched her shoulder. 

"Wake up. It's morning." 

Nora stirred. Her eyes opened, 
but Frank got the impression she 
did not really awaken for several 
seconds. Her eyes went to his face, 
to the window, back to his face. 

"What time is it?" 

"I don't know. I think it's around 
eight o'clock." 

Nora stretched both arms luxuri- 
ously. As she sat up, her slip fell 
back into place and Frank got the 
impression she hadn't even been 
ware of her partial nudity. 

She stared up at him, clarity 



26 



IVAR JORGENSON 



dawning in her eyes, "You're all 
vli aned up." 

"I went downstairs and got some 
things." 

"You went out — alone?" 

"Why not. We can't stay in here 
all day. We've got to hit the road 
and get out of here. We've overshot 
our luck already." 

"But that — that man in the hall 
last night! You shouldn't have 
taken a chance." 

"I didn't bump into him. I found 
the place he fixed his hand, down in 
the drugstore." 

Frank went to the table and came 
back with the cosmetic set. He put 
it in Nora's lap. "I brought this up 
for you." 

Surprise and true pleasure were 
mixed in her expression. "That was 
very nice. I think I'd better get 
dressed." 

Frank turned toward the window 
where he had left the bundle of tele- 
type clips. "I've got a little reading 
to do." 

As he sat down, he saw, from the 
corner of his eye, a flash of slim 
brown legs moving toward the 
bathroom. Just inside the door, 
Nora turned. "Are Jim Wilson and 
Minna up yet?" 

"I don't think so." 

Nora's eyes remained on him. "I 
think you were very brave to go 
downstairs alone. But it was a fool- 
ish thing to do. You should have 
waited for Jim Wilson." 

"You're right about it being fool- 
ish. But I had to go." 

"Why?" 

"Because I'm not brave at all. 
Mnybe that was the reason." 

Nora left the bathroom door 
open about six inches and Frank 



heard the sound of the shower. He 
sat with the papers in his hand won- 
dering about the water. When he 
had gone to the bathroom the 
thought had never occurred to him. 
It was natural that it should. Now 
he wondered about it. Why was it 
still running? After a while he con- 
sidered the possibility of the supply 
tank on the roof. 

Then he wondered about Nora. 
It was strange how he could think 
about her personally and imper- 
sonally at the same time. He re- 
membered her words of the previ- 
ous night. They made her — he shied 
from the term. What was the old 
cliche? A woman of easy virtue. 

What made a woman of that 
type, he wondered. Was it some- 
thing inherent in their makeup? 
That partially opened door was 
symbolic somehow. He was sure 
that many wives closed the bath- 
room door upon their husbands; 
did it without thinking, instinctive- 
ly. He was sure Nora had left it 
partially open without thinking. 
Could a behavior pattern be traced 
from such an insignificant thing? 

He wondered about his own at- 
titude toward Nora. He had drawn 
away from what she'd offered him 
during the night. And yet from no 
sense of disgust. There was certainly 
far more about Nora to attract than 
to repel. 

Morals, he realized dimly, were 
imposed — or at least functioned — ' 
for the protection of society. With 
society gone — vanished overnight 
— did the moral code still hold? 

If and when they got back among 
masses of people, would his feelings 
toward Nora change? He thought 
not. He would marry her, he told 



DEADLY CITY 



27 



Shimself firmly, as quick as he'd 
marry any other girl. He would not 
hold what she was against her. I 
guess I'm just fundamentally un- 
moral myself, he thought, and be- 
gan reading the news clips. 



THERE WAS a knock on the 
door accompanied by the boom- 
ing voice of Jim Wilson. "You in 
there! Ready for breakfast?" 

Frank got up and walked toward 
the door. As he did so, the door to 
the bathroom closed. 

Jim Wilson wore a two-day 
growth of beard and it didn't seem 
to bother him at all. As he entered 
the room he rubbed his hands to- 
gether in great gusto. "Well, 
where'U we eat, folks? Let's pick 
the classiest restaurant in town. 
Nothing but the best for Minna 
here." 

He winked broadly as Minna, ex- 
pressionless and silent, followed 
him in exactly as a shadow would 
have followed him and sat primly 
down in a straight-backed chair by 
the wall. 

"We'd better start moving 
south," Frank said, "and not bother 
about breakfast." 

"Getting scared?" Jim Wilson 
asked. 

"You're damn right I'm scared — 
now. We're right in the middle of a 
big no-man's-land." 

"I don't get you." 

At that moment the bathroom 
door opened and Nora came out. 
Jim Wilson forgot about the ques- 
tion he'd asked. He let forth a loud 
whistle of appreciation. Then he 
turned his eyes on Frank and his 
thought was crystal clear. He was 



envying Frank the night just passed. 

A sudden irritation welled up in 
Frank Brooks, a distinct feeling of 
disgust. "Let's start worrying about 
important things— our lives. Or 
don't you consider your life very im- 
portant?" 

Jim Wilson seemed puzzled. 
"What the hell's got into you? 
Didn't you sleep good?" 

"I went down the block this 
morning and found some teletype 
machines. I've just been reading 
the reports." 

"What about that guy that tried 
to get into your room last night?" 

"I didn't see him. I didn't see 
anybody. But I know why the city's 
been cleaned out." Frank went back 
to the window and picked up the 
sheaf on clips he had gone through. 
Jim Wilson sat down on the edge 
of the bed, frowning. Nora fol- 
lowed Frank and perched on the 
edge of the chair he dropped into. 

"The city going to blow up?" 
Wilson asked. 

"No. We've been invaded by 
some form of alien life." 

"Is that what the papers said?" 

"It was the biggest and fastest 
mass evacuation ever attempted. I 
pieced the reports together. There 
was hell popping around here dur- 
ing the two days we — we waited it 
out." 

"Where did they all go?" Nora 
asked. 

"South. They've evacuated a 
forty-mile strip from the lake west. 
The first Terran defense line is set 
up in northern Indiana." 

"What do you mean — Terra." 

"It's a word that means Earth — 
this planet. The invaders came from 
some other planet, they think— at 



28 



IVAR JORGENSON 



least from no place on Earth." 

"That's the silliest damn thing I 
ever heard of," Wilson said. 

"A lot of people probably thought 
the same thing," Frank replied. 
"Flying saucers were pretty com- 
mon. Nobody thought they were 
anything and nobody paid much at- 
tention. Then they hit — three days 
ago — and wiped out every living 
soul in three little southern Mich- 
igan towns. From there they began 
spreading out. They — " 

Each of them heard the sound at 
the same time. A faint rumble, in- 
creasing swiftly into high thunder. 
They moved as one to the window 
and saw four jet planes, in forma- 
tion, moving across the sky from the 
south. 

"There they come," Frank said. 
"The fight's started. Up to now the 
army has been trying to get set, I 
suppose. 

Nora said, "Is there any way we 
can hail them? Let them know — " 

Her words were cut off by the 
horror of what happened. As they 
watched, the plane skimmed low 
across the Loop. At a point, ap- 
proximately over Lake Street, 
Frank estimated, the planes were 
annihilated. There was a flash of 
blue fire coming in like jagged 
lightning to form four balls of fire 
around the planes. The fire balls 
turned, almost instantly, into globes 
of white smoke that drifted lazily 
away. 

And that was all. But the planes 
vanished completely. 

"What happened?" Wilson mut- 
tered. "Where'd they go?" 

"It was as if they hit a wall,"' 
Nora said, her voice hushed with 
awe. 



"I think that was what hap- 
pened," Frank said. "The invaders 
have some kind of a weapon that 
holds us helpless. Otherwise the 
army wouldn't have established this 
no-man's-land and pulled out. The 
reports said we have them sur- 
rounded on all sides with the help 
of the lake. We're trying, to keep 
them isolated." 

Jim Wilson snorted. "It looks like 
we've got them right where they 
want us." 

"Anyhow, we're damn fools to 
stick around here. We'd better head 
south." 

Wilson looked wistfully about the 
room. "I guess so, but it's a shame 
— walking away from all this." 

Nora was staring out the win- 
dow, a small frown on her face. "I 
wonder who they are and where 
they came from?" 

"The teletype releases were 
pretty vague on that." 

She turned quickly. "There's 
something peculiar about them. 
Something really strange." 

"What do you mean?" 

"Last night when we were w.alk- 
ing up the street. It must have been 
these invaders we heard. They must 
have been across the street. But they 
didn't act like invaders. They 
seemed — well, scared. I got the 
feeling they ran from us in panic. 
And they haven't been back." 

Wilson said, "They may not have 
been there at all. Probably our 
imaginations." 

"I don't think so," Frank cut in. 
"They were there and then they 
were gone. I'm sure of it." 

"Those wailing noises. They 
were certainly signalling to each 
other. Do you suppose that's the 



DEADLY CITY 



m 



only language they have?" Nora 
walked over and offered the silent 
Minna a cigarette. Minna refused 
with a shake of her head. 

"I wish we knew what they 
looked like/' Frank said. "But let's 
not sit here talking. Let's get go- 
ing." 

Jim Wilson was scowling. There 
was a roarked sullenness in his man- 
ner. "Not Minna and me. I've 
changed my mind. I'm sticking 
here." 

Frank blinked in surprise. "Are 
you crazy? We've run our luck out 
already. Did you see what hap- 
pened to those planes?" 

"The hell with the planes. We've 
got it good here. This I like. I like 
it a lot. We'll stay." 

"Okay," Frank replied hotly, 
"but talk for yourself. You're not 
making Minna stay!" 

Wilson's eyes narrowed. "I'm 
not? Look, buster — how about 
minding your own goddam busi- 
ness?" 

The vague feelings of disgust 
Frank had had now crystallized into 
words. "I won't let you get away 
with it! You think I'm blind? Haul- 
ing her into the back room every 
ten minutes! Don't you think I 
know why? You're nothing but a 
damn sex maniac! You've got her 
terrorized until she's afraid to open 
her mouth. She goes with us!" 

Jim Wilson was on his feet. His 
face blazed with rage. The urge to 
kill was written in the crouch of his 
body and the twist of his mouth. 
"You goddam nosey little squirt. 
I'll—" 

Wilson charged across the short, 
intervening distance. His arms went 
out in a clutching motion. 



But Frank Brooks wasn't full of 
knockout drops this time, and with 
a clear head he was no pushover. 
Blinded with rage, Jim Wilson was 
a pushover. Frank stepped in be- 
tween his outstretched arms and 
slugged him squarely on top of the 
head with the telephone. Wilson 
went down like a felled steer. 

The scream came from Minna as 
she sprang across the room. She had 
turned from a colorless rag doll into 
a tigress. She -hit Frank square in 
the belly with small fists at the end 
of stiff, outstretched arms. The full 
force of her charge was behind the 
fists, and Frank went backward 
over the bed, 

Minna did not follow up her at- 
tack. She dropped to the floor be- 
side Jim Wilson and took his huge 
head in her lap. "You killed him," 
she sobbed. "You — you murderer! 
You killed him! You had no right!" 

Frank sat wide-eyed. "Minna! 
For God's sake! I was helping you. 
I did it for you!" 

"Why don't you mind your busi- 
ness? I didn't ask you to protect 
me? I don't need any protection — 
not from Jim." 

"You mean you didn't mind the 
way he's treated you — " 

"You've killed him — skilled him 
— " Minna raised her head slowly. 
She looked at Frank as though she 
saw him for the first time. "You're 
a fool," she said dully. "A big fool. 
What right have you got to meddle 
with other people's affairs? Are you 
God or something, to run people's 
lives?" 

"Minna— I—" 

It was as though he hadn't 
spoken. "Do you know what it's like 
to have nobody? All your life to go 



30 



IVAR JORGENSON 



on and grow older without any- 
body? I didn't have no one and 
then Jim came along and wanted 
me." 

Frank walked close to her and 
bent down. She reacted like a tiger. 
"Leave him alone! Leave him 
alone! You've done enough!" 

Nonplused, Frank backed away. 

"People with big noses — always 
sticking them in. That's you. Was 
that any of your business what he 
wanted of me? Did I complain?" 

"I'm sorry, Minna. I didn't 
know." 

"I'd rather go into back rooms 
with him than stay in front rooms 
without nobody." 

She began to cry now. Wordless- 
ly — soundlessly, rocking back and 
forth with the huge man's bloody 
head in her lap. "Anytime," she 
crooned. "Anytime I would — " 

The body in her arms stirred. She 
looked down through her tears and 
saw the small black eyes open. They 
were slightly crossed, unfocused as 
they were by the force of the blow. 
They straightened and Jim mum- 
bled, "What the hell — ^what the 
hell—" 

Minna's time for talking seemed 
over. She smiled — a smile hardly 
perceptible, as though it was for 
herself alone. "You're all right," she 
said. "That's good. You're all 
right." 

Jim pushed her roughly away 
and staggered to his feet. He stood 
swaying for a moment, his head 
turning ; for all the world like a bull 
blinded and tormented. Then his 
eyes focused on Frank. 

"You hit me with the' goddam 
phone." 

"Yeah— I hit you." 



"I'm gonna kill you." 

"Look — I made a mistake." 
Frank picked up the phone and 
backed against the wall. "I hit you, 
but you were coming at me. I made 
a mistake and I'm sorry." 

"I'll smash your goddam skull." 

"Maybe you will," Frank said 
grimly. "But you'll work for it. It 
won't come easy." 

A new voice bit across the room. 
"Cut it out. I'll do the killing. 
That's what I like best. Everybody 
quiet down." 

They turned and saw a slim, 
pale-skinned young man in the 
open doorway. The door had 
opened quietly and no one had 
heard it. Now the pale young man 
was standing in the room with a 
small, nickle-plated revolver in his 
right hand. 

The left hand was close down at 
his side. It was swathed generously 
in white bandage. 

The young man chuckled. "The 
last four people in the world were 
in a room," he said, "and there was 
a knock on the door." 

His chuckle deepened to one of 
pure merriment. "Only there wasn't 
a knock. A man just walked in with 
a gun that made him boss." 

No one moved. No one spoke. 
The man waited, then went on: 
"My name is Leroy Davis. I lived 
out west and I always had a keeper 
because they said I wasn't quite 
right. They wanted me to pull out 
with the rest of them, but I slugged 
my keeper and here I am." 

"Put down the gun and we'll talk 
it over," Frank said. "We're all in 
this together." 

"No, we aren't. I've got a gun, so 
that makes me top man. You're all 



DEADLY CITY 



31 



in it together, but I'm not. I'm the 
boss, and which one of you tried to 
cut my hand off last night." 

"You tried to break in here yell- 
ing and screaming like a madman. 
I held the door. What else rould I 
do?" 

"It's all right. I'm not rnad. My 
type — we may be nuts, but we never 
hold a grudge. I can't remember 
much about last night. I found 
some whisky in a place down the 
street and whisky drives me nuts. I 
don't know what I'm doing when I 
drink whisky. They say once about 
five years ago I got drunk and 
killed a little kid. but T don't re- 
member." 

Nobody spoke. 

"I got out of it. They got me out 
some way. High priced lawyers got 
me out. Cost my dad a pile." 

Hysteria had been piling up in- 
side of Nora. She had held it back, 
but now a little of it spurted out 
from between her set teeth. "Do 
something, somebody. Isn't any- 
body goin^ to do anything?" 

Leroy Davis blinked at her. 
"There's nothing they can do. 
honey," he said in a kindly voice. 
"I've got the gun. They'd be crazy 
to try anything." 

Nora's laugh was like the rattle 
of dry peas. She sat down on the 
bed and looked up at the ceiling 
and laughed. "It's crazy. It's all so 
crazy! We're sitting here in a 
doomed city with some kind of alien 
invaders all around us and we don't 
know what they look like. They 
haven't hurt us at all. We don't 
even know what they look like. We 
don't worry a bit about them be- 
cause we're too busy trying to kill 
each other." 



Frank Brooks took Nora by the 
arm. "Stop it! Quit laughing like 
that!" 

Nora shook him off. "Maybe we 
need someone to take us over. It's 
all pretty crazy!" 

"Stop it." 

Nora's eyes dulled down as she 
looked at Frank. She dropped her 
head and seemed a little ashamed 
of herself. "I'm sorry. I'll be quiet." 

Jim Wilson had been standing by 
the wall looking first at the new- 
comer, then back at Frank Brooks. 
Wilson seemed confused as to who 
his true enemy really was. Finally 
he took a step toward Leroy Davis. 

Frank Brooks stopped him with a 
motion, but kept his eyes on Davis. 
"Have you seen anybody else?" 

Davis regarded Frank with long, 
careful consideration. His eyes were 
bright and birdlike. They reminded 
Frank of a squirrel's eyes. Davis 
said, "I bumped into an old man 
out on Halstead Street. He wanted 
to know where everybody had gone. 
He asked me, but I didn't know." 

"What happened to the old 
man?" Nora asked. She asked the 
question as though dreading to do 
it; but as though some compulsion 
forced her to speak. 

"I shot him," Davis said cheer- 
fully. "It was a favor, really. Here 
was this old man staggering down 
the street with nothing but a lot of 
wasted years to show for his efforts. 
He was no good alive, and he didn't 
have the courage to die." Davis 
stopped and cocked his head bright- 
ly. "You know — I think that's 
what's been wrong with the world. 
Too many people without the guts 
to die, and a law against killing 
them" 



32 



IVAR JORGENSON 



It had now dawned upon Jim 
Wilson that they were faced by a 
maniac. His eyes met those of Frank 
Brooks and they were — on this point 
at least — in complete agreement. A 
working procedure sprang up, un- 
worded, between them. Jim Wilson 
took a slow, casual step toward the 
homicidal maniac. 

"You didn't see anyone else?" 
Frank asked. 

Davis ignored the question. 
"Look at it this way," he said. "In 
the old days they had Texas long 
horns. Thin stringy cattle that gave 
up meat as tough as leather. Do we 
have cattle like that today? No. 
Because we bred out the weak line." 

Frank said, "There are some cig- 
arettes on that table if you want 
one." 

Jim Wilson took another slow 
step toward Davis. 

IDavis said, "We bred with intelli- 
gence, with a thought to what a 
steer was for and we produced a 
walking chunk of meat as wide as it 
is long. 

"Uh-huh," Frank said. 

"Get the point? See what I'm 
driving at? Humans are more im- 
portant than cattle, but can we 
make them breed intelligently? Oh, 
no! That interferes with damn silly 
human liberties. You can't tell a 
man he can only have two kids. It's 
his God-given right to have twelve 
when the damn moron can't sup- 
port three. Get what I mean?" 

"Sure — sure, I get it." 

"You better think it over, mister 
— and tell that fat bastard to quit 
sneaking up on me or I'll blow his 
brains all over the carpet!" 

If the situation hadn't been so 
grim it would have appeared ludi- 



crous. Jim Wilson, feeling success 
almost in his grasp, was balanced 
on tiptoe for a lunge. He teetered, 
almost lost his balance and fell back 
against the wall. 

"Take it easy," Frank said. 

"I'll take it easy," Davis replied. 
"I'll kill every goddam one of you 
— " he pointed the gun at Jim Wil- 
son. " — starting with him." 

"Now wait a minute," Frank 
said. "You're unreasonable. What 
right have you got to do that? What 
about the law of survival? You're 
standing there with a gun on us. 
You're going to kill us. Isn't it nat- 
ural to try anything we can to save 
our own lives?" 

A look of admiration brightened 
Davis' eyes. "Say! I like you. 
You're all right. You're logical. A 
man can talk to you. If there's any- 
thing I like it's talking to a logical 
man." 

"Thanks." 

"Too bad I'm going to have to 
kill you. We could sit down and 
have some nice long talks together." 

"Why do you want to kill us?" 
Minna asked. She had not spoken 
before. In fact, she had spoken so 
seldom during the entire time they'd 
been together that her voice was a 
novelty to Frank. He was inclined 
to discount her tirade on the floor 
with Wilson's head In her lap. She 
had been a different person then. 
Now she had lapsed back into her 
old shell. 

Davis regarded thoughtfully. 
"Must you have a reason?" 

"You should have a reason to kill 
people." 

Davis said, "All right, if it will 
make you any happier. I told you 
about killing my keeper when they 



DEADLY CITY 



33 



tried to make me leave town. He 
got in the car, behind the wheel. I 
got into the back seat and split his 
skull with a tire iron." 

"What's that got to do with us?" 

"Just this. Tommy was a better 
person than anyone of you or all of 
you put together. If he had to die, 
what right have you got to live? Is 
that enough of a reason for you?" 

"This is all too damn crazy," Jim 
Wilson roared. He was on the point 
of leaping at Davis and his gun. 

At that moment, from the north, 
came a sudden crescendo of the 
weird invader wailings. It was 
louder than it had previously been 
but did not seem nearer. 

The group froze, all ears trained 
upon the sound. "They're talking 
again," Nora whispered. 

"Uh-huh," Frank replied. "But 
it's different this time. As if — " 

"—as if they were getting ready 
for something," Nora said. "Do you 
suppose they're going to move 
south?" 

Davis said, "I'm not going to kill 
you here. We're going down stairs." 

The pivotal moment, hinged in 
Jim Wilson's mind, that could have 
changed the situation, had come 
and gone. The fine edge of addi- 
tional madness that would make a 
man hurl himself at a loaded gun, 
was dulled. Leroy Davis motioned 
pre-emptorily toward Minna. 

"You first — then the other babe. 
You walk side by side down the hall 
with the men behind you. Straight 
down to the lobby." 

They complied without resist- 
ance. There was only Jim Wilson's 
scowl, Frank Brooks' clouded eyes, 
and the white, taut look of Nora. 

Nora's mind was not on the gun. 



It was filled with thoughts of the 
pale maniac who held it. He was in 
command. Instinctively, she felt 
that maniacs in command have one 
of but two motivations — sex and 
murder. Her reaction to possible 
murder was secondary. But what if 
this man insisted upon laying his 
hands upon her. What if he forced 
her into the age old thing she had 
done so often? Nora shuddered. 
But it was also in her mind to ques- 
tion, and be surprised at the reason 
for her revulsion. She"visualized the 
hands upon her body — the old fa- 
miliar things, and the taste in her 
mouth was one of horror. 

She had never experienced such 
shrinkings before. Why now. Had 
she herself changed? Had some- 
thing happened during the night 
that made the past a time of shame? 
Or was it the madman himself? She 
did not know. 

Nora returned from her musings 
to find herself standing in the empty 
lobby. Leroy Davis, speaking to 
Frank, was saying. "You look kind 
of tricky to me. Put your hands on 
your head. Lock your fingers to- 
gether over your head and keep 
your hands there." 

Jim Wilson was standing close to 
the mute Minna. She had followed 
all the orders without any show of 
anger, with no outward expression. 
Always she had kept her eyes on 
Jim Wilson. Obviously, whatever 
Jim ordered, she would have done 
without question. 

Wilson leaned his head down to- 
ward her. He said, "Listen, baby, 
there's something I keep meaning 
to ask but I always forget it. What's 
your last name?" 

"Trumble — Minna Trumble. I 



34 



IVAR JORGENSON 



thought I told you." 

"Maybe you did. Maybe I didn't 
get it." 

Nora felt the hysteria welling 
again. "How long are you going to 
keep doing this?" she asked. 

Leroy Davis cocked his head as 
he looked at her. "Doing what?" 

"Play cat and mouse like this. 
Holding us on a pin like flies in an 
exhibit." 

Leroy Davis smiled brightly. 
"Like a butterfly in your case, 
honey. A big, beautiful butterfly." 

"What are you going to do," 
Frank Brooks snapped. "Whatever 
it is, let's get it over with?" 

"Can't you see what I'm doing?" 
Davis asked with genuine wonder. 
"Are you that stupid? I'm being the 
boss. I'm in command and I like it. 
I hold life and death over four peo- 
ple and I'm savoring the thrill of it. 
You're pretty stupid, mister, and if 
you use that 'can't get away with it' 
line, I'll put a bullet into your left 
ear and watch it come out your 
right one." 

Jim Wilson's fists were doubled. 
He was again approaching the 
reckless point. And again it was 
dulled by the gradually increasing 
sound of a motor — not in the air, 
but from the street level to the 
south. 

It was a sane, cheerful sound and 
was resented instantly by the insane 
mind of Leroy Davis. 

He tightened even to the point 
that his face grew more pale from 
the tension. He backed to a win- 
dow, looked out quickly, and turned 
back. "It's a jeep," he said. 
"They're going by the hotel. If any- 
body makes a move, or yells, they'll 
find four bodies in here and me 



gone. That's what I'm telling you 
and you know I'll do it." 

They knew he woul4 do it and 
they stood silent, trying to dredge 
up the nerve to make a move. The 
jeep's motor backfired a couple of 
times as it approached Madison 
Street. Each time, Leroy Davis' 
nerves reacted sharply and the four 
people kept their eyes trained on 
the gun in his hand. 

The jeep came to the intersection 
and slowed down. There was a con- 
ference between its two occupants 
— helmeted soldiers in dark brown 
battle dress. Then the jeep moved 
on up Clark Street toward Lake. 

A choked sigh escaped from 
Nora's throat. Frank Brooks turned 
toward her. "Take it easy," he said. 
"We're not dead yet. I don't thinlt 
he wants to kill us." 

The reply came from Minna. 
She spoke quietly. "I don't care. I 
can't stand any more of this. After 
all, we aren't animals. We're hu- 
man beings and we have a right to 
live and die as we please." 

Minna walked toward Leroy 
Davis. "I'm not afraid of your gun 
any more. All you can do with it is 
kill me. Go ahead and do it." 

Minna walked up to Leroy 
Davis. He gaped at her and said, 
"You're crazy! Get back there. 
You're a crazy dame!" 

He fired the gun twice and Min- 
na died appreciating the incon- 
gruity of his words. She went out 
on a note of laughter and as she fell, 
Jim Wilson, with an echoing animal 
roar, lunged at Leroy Davis. His 
great hand closed completely over 
that of Davis, hiding the gun. 
There was a muffled explosion and 
the bullet cut unnoticed through 



DEADLY CJTY 



35 



Wilson's palm. Wilson jerked the 
gun from Davis' weak grasp and 
hurled it away. Then he killed 
Davis. 

He did it slowly, a surprising 
thing for Wilson. He lifted Davis 
by his neck and held him with his 
feet off the floor. He squeezed 
Davis' neck, seeming to do it with 
great leisure as Davis made horrible 
noises and kicked his legs. 

Nora turned her eyes away, 
buried them in Frank Brooks' shoul- 
der, but she could not keep the 
sounds from reaching her ears. 
Frank held her close. "Take it 
easy," he said. "Take it easy." And 
he was probably not conscious of 
saying it. 

"Tell him to hurry," Nora whis- 
pered. "Tell him to get it over with. 
It's like killing — ^killing an animal." 

"That's what he is — an animal." 

Frank Brooks stared in fascina- 
tion at Letoy Davis' distorted, dark- 
ening face. It was beyond sem- 
blance of anything human now. 
The eyes bulged and the tongue 
came from his mouth as though 
frantically seeking relief. 

The animal sounds quieted and 
died away. Nora heard the sound 
of the body falling to the floor — a 
limp, soft sound of finality. She 
turned and saw Jim Wilson with 
his hands still extended and cupped. 
The terrible hands from which the 
stench of a terrible life was drifting 
away into empty air. 

Wilson looked down at his handi- 
work. "He's dead," Wilson said 
slowly. He turned to face Frank 
and Nora. There was a great dis- 
appointment in his face. "That's 
all there is to it," he said, dully. 
"He's just — dead." Without know- 



ing it for what it was, Jim Wilson 
was full of the futile aftertaste of 
revenge. 

He bent down to pick up Min- 
na's body. There was a small blue 
hole in the right cheek and another 
one over the left eye. With a glance 
at Frank and Nora, Jim Wilson 
covered the wounds with his hand 
as though they were not decent. He 
picked her up in his arms and 
walked across the lobby and up the 
stairs with the slow, quiet tread of a 
weary man. 

The sound of the jeep welled up 
again, but it was further away now. 
Frank Brooks took Nora's hand and 
they hurried out into the street. As 
they crossed the sidewalk, the sound 
of the jeep was drowned by a sud- 
den swelling of the wailings to the 
northward. 

On still a new note, they rose and 
fell on the still air. A note of panic, 
of new knowledge, it seemed, but 
Frank and Nora were not paying 
close attention. The sounds of the 
jeep motor had come from the west 
and they got within sight of the 
Madison-Well intersection in time 
to see the jeep hurtle southward at 
its maximum speed. 

Frank yelled and waved his arms, 
but he knew he had been neither 
seen nor heard. They were given lit- 
tle time for disappointment how- 
ever, because a new center of in- 
terest appeared to the northward. 
From around the corner of Wash- 
ington Street, into Clark, moved 
three strange figures. 

There was a mixture of belliger- 
ence and distress in their actions. 
They carried odd looking weapons 
and seemed interested in using them 
upon something or someone, but 



36 



IVAR JORGENSON 



they apparently lacked the energy 
to raise them although they ap- 
peared to be rather light. 

The creatures themselves were 
humanoid, Frank thought. He 
tightened his grip on Nora's hand. 
"They've seen us." 

"Let's not run," Nora said. "I'm 
tired of running. All it's gotten us is 
trouble. Let's just stand here." 

"Don't be foolish." 

"I'm not running. You can if you 
want to." 

Frank turned his attention back 
to the three strange creatures. He 
allowed natural curiosity full reign. 
Thoughts of flight vanished from 
his mind. 

"They're so thin-r^o fragile," 
Nora said. 

"But their weapons aren't." 

"It's hard to believe, even seeing 
them, that they're from another 
planet." 

"How so? They certainly don't 
look much like us." 

"I mean with the talk, for so 
long, about flying saucers and space 
flight and things like that. Here 
they are, but it doesn't seem possi- 
ble." 

"There's something wrong with 
them." 

This was true. Two of the strange 
beings had fallen to the sidewalk. 
The "third came doggedly on, drag- 
ging one foot after the other until, 
he went to his hands and knees. He 
remained motionless for a long 
time, his head hanging limply. Then 
he too, sank to the cement and lay 
still. 

The wailings from the north now 
took on a tone of intense agony — 
great desperation. After that came 
a yawning silence» 



THEY DEFEATED themselves," 
the military man said. "Of 
rather, natural forces defeated 
them. We certainly had little to do 
with it." 

Nora, Frank, and Jim Wilson 
stood at the curb beside a motor- 
cycle. The man on the cycle sup- 
ported it with a leg propped against 
the curb as he talked. 

"We saw three of them die up the 
street," Frank said. 

"Our scouting party saw the same 
thing happen. That's why we 
moved in. It's about over now. 
We'll know a lot more about them 
and where they came from in twen- 
ty-four hours." 

They had nothing further to say. 
The military man regarded them 
thoughtfully. "I don't know about 
you three. If you ignored the 
evacation through no fault of your 
own and can prove it — " 

"There were four of us," Jim 
Wilson said. "Then we met another 
man. He's inside on the floor. I 
killed him." 

"Murder?" the military man said 
sharply. 

"He killed a woman who was 
with us," Frank said. "He was a 
maniac. When he's identified I'm 
pretty sure he'll have a past record." 

"Where is the woman's body?" 

"On a bed upstairs," Wilson said. 

"I'll have to hold all of you. 
Martial law exists in this area. 
You're in the hands of the army." 



THE STREETS were full of 
people now, going about their 
business, pushing and jostling, eat- 
ing in the restaurants, making elec- 
tricity for the lights, generating 



DEADLY CITY 



37 



power for the telephones. 

Nora, Frank, and Jim Wilson sat 
in a restaurant on Clark Street. 
"We're all different people now," 
Nora said. "No one could go 
through what we've been through 
and be the same." 

Jim Wilson took her statement 
listlessly. "Did they find out what it 
was about our atmosphere that 
killed them?" 

"They're still working on that, I 
think." Frank Brooks stirred his cof- 
fee, raised a spoonful and let it drip 
back into the cup. 

"I'm going up to the Chicago 
Avenue police station," Wilson said. 

Frank and Nora looked up in sur- 
prise. Frank asked, "Why? The 
military court missed it — the fact 
you escaped from jail." 

"They didn't miss it I don't think. 
I don't think they cared much. I'm 
going back anyway." 

"It won't be much of a rap." 

"No, a pretty small one. I want 
to get it over with." 

He got up from his chair. "So 
long. Maybe I'll see you around." 

"So long." 

"Goodbye." 

Frank said, "I think I'll beat it 
too. I've got a job in a factory up 
north. Maybe they're operating 
again." He got to his feet and stood 
awkwardly by the table. "Besides — 
I've got some pay coming." 

Nora didn't say anything. 



Frank said, "Well — so 
Maybe I'll see you around." 
"Maybe. Goodbye." 



long. 



Frank Brooks walked north on 
Clark Street. He was glad to get 
away from the restaurant. Nora 
was a good kid but hell — ^you didn't 
take up with a hooker. A guy played 
around, but you didn't stick with 
them. 

But it made a guy think. He was 
past the kid stage. It was time for 
him to find a girl and settle down. 
A guy didn't want to knock around 
all his life. 

Nora walked west on Madison 
Street. Then she remembered the 
Halstead Street slums were in that 
direction and turned south on 
Wells. She had nine dollars in her 
bag and that worried her. You 
couldn't get along on nine dollars 
in Chicago very long. 

There was a tavern on Jackson 
near Wells. Nora went inside. The 
barkeep didn't frown at her. That 
was good. She went to the bar and 
ordered a beer and was served. 

After a while a man came in. A 
middle aged man who might have 
just come into Chicago — whose 
bags might still be at the LaSalle 
Street Station down the block. The 
man looked at Nora, then away. 
After a while looked at her again. 

Nora smiled. 



- THE END ■ 



// earthlings are looking for an "incident" the 
gods of chance will furnish one. On Lobe, how- 
ever, it might be merely a neglible — 



Margin of Error 

By Richard Deeming 

Illustrated by Bob Martin 




ON JANUARY 1st, 1980, a 
small Negro boy in Porto Rico 
was hunting rats with an ancient 
.22 caliber single-shot rifle. At one 
minute after twelve noon he looked 
up as the jet mail express from 
Communist Haiti zoomed by a 
quarter mile offshore and ten thou- 
sand feet high, en route to Com- 
munist Trinidad. As sometimes hap- 
pens in imaginative childhood, the 
boy visualized the far-off jet ex- 
press as a bird and raised his rifle 
to his shoulder. He said "bang!" 
and somehow the tiny rifle went 
off. To his horror the jet express 
immediately performed a loop and 
plunged into the sea. 

Within twenty-four hours, the 
small boy had been magnified into 
an anti-aircraft crew, and an inci- 
dent had been manufactured. This, 
because an incident was desired by 
one Marshall Igor Matoshek — Dic- 
tator of Russia— and a great many 
other nations. »On January 2nd, 
1980, Matoshek addressed, by tele- 
vision, the two and one-half billion 
people under his rule, plus the two- 
hundred million people not under 
his rule, he simply announced that 
the warmongering bourgeois dicta- 
torship which ruled the Tri-federa- 
tion of North America and the Is- 
land of Porto Rico had vilely at- 
tacked the free and peace-loving 
democracies of the Communist In- 
ternational, and that a state of war 
existed. 

At the same time, an extremely 
unimportant conference was taking 
place on the planet Lobe, eight 
light years away from the planet 
Earth. 

Since the participants in this con- 




ference conversed by thought 
transference in a language not 
translatable into any language ever 
employed on Earth, and even im- 
possible to indicate phonetically, 
only its substance can be given. For 
the same reason there is no way to 
express the true names of the par- 
ticipants, so for purposes of con- 
venience they are arbitrarily desig- 
nated Horace, George and Junior. 

In the extremely advanced civili- 
zation of Lobe, Horace was the 
Earthly equivalent of a kindergar- 
ten teacher. He was a tall, distin- 
guished looking Lobian with nearly 
white antennae, but a beak un- 
chipped by age and a firm, un- 
wrinkled underside where it was 
unprotected by his shell. 

The position of George in Lobian 
economy has no counterpart on 
Earth, and therefore cannot be ac- 
curately described. Approximately, 
he was something like a skilled ar- 
tisan, though his work was entirely 
mental, consisting of polishing the 
raw thoughts of workers higher in 
the Lobian professional scale. Bi- 
ologically it is easier to put a finger 
on George, however. He was the 
father of Junior. 

Junior was the subject of the con- 
ference. 



39 



40 



RICHARD DEEMING 



"It is difficult and embarrassing 
to tell a parent his child is sub- 
normal," Horace was transmitting, 
glancing first at Junior to make sure 
his receiving antenna was retracted 
as ordered. "I hope you understand 
the delicacy of my position." 

"Of course, professor," George 
radioed back glumly, "It's just that 
I had such hopes for the lad." His 
thought trailed off and he waved 
several tentacles vaguely. 

"Being a drone will at least be a 
pleasant life," Horace reassured 
him. "Junior will be happy. You 
have the consolation of the Act be- 
ing in force anyway. Ten years ago 
he would have been destroyed." 

George absorbed this with small 
solace. Examining his son, he felt a 
twinge of compassion because the 
lad so resembled his dead mother. 
The same delicate sight-tubes, shin- 
ing black beak and gentle curve to 
the brittle plate encasing his shoul- 
ders. He signalled the youngster to 
thrust out his receiving antenna. 

"Your teacher tells me you have 
a little trouble with your work, 
son," he transmitted gently. "Is 
there anything particular bothering 
you?" , 

In the high frequency of the very 
young, Junior sent back, "It's my 
margin of, error, Father. I under- 
stand the principles of the prob- 
lems, but my answers come out 
wrong. I seem to make mechanical 
mistakes." 

Ocdige glanced at Horace in- 
(iuirint;ly, and the teacher motioned 
junior to retract his antenna again. 

"All indication of an intermit- 
tiiii Im' :ik in the thought pattern," 
he t laincd. "With our present 
knowlidge, nothing can be done for 



him. He can absorb knowledge, of 
course. Under our modern teach- 
ing methods we can impart knowl- 
edge to an imbecile." His expres- 
sion indicated he believed that the 
situation in this case. "But he could 
never be allowed to perform even 
the simplest problem except under 
supervision. Conceive what might 
happen if we even trained him to 
become merely a thought-link com- 
puter. He might insert an error 
whose end result could throw the 
entire universe out of balance." 

"Would you mind my watching 
while he worked some simple prob- 
lem?" George radioed. 

"Of course not." Again the 
teacher signalled his student, and 
Junior's antenna obediently shot 
out. "Your father would like to see 
you at work. Junior. Take him into 
your room and explain the problem 
you were doing when we inter- 
rupted you." Then he paused and 
added a caution. "No practical ap- 
plication until I have checked your 
calculations, however." 

Two and a half billion com- 
munist subjects watched the tele- 
vised image of Marshall Igor Mato- 
shek with stoic resignation and 
cheered with mechanical enthusi- 
asm. Two-hundred million people 
in the three republics of North 
America and on the Island of Porto 
Rico watched the same image with 
fear in their hearts. 

"We stand on the threshold of 
the greatest era in history," intoned 
the most important man in the 
world. "The outcome of the vast 
struggle in which we are about to 
engage will determine the destiny 
of this planet for all time. No sin- 



MARGIN OF ERROR 



41 



gle instance in the known past has 
ever been of such import." 

The President of the Tri-federa- 
tion of North America did not wait 
for the talk to end. He lifted his 
telephone and ordered the H-bomb 
shields aloft at once. 

"The first problem is simple 
enough," Junior explained to his 
father. He indicated a small scan- 
ning screen, and twisted dials until 
a section of the heavens was visible. 
"One at a time I take each of the 
twenty-two solar systems outside of 
our own and compute what effect 
its mass and location has on the lo- 
cation of this planet. In other 
thoughts, if the particular solar sys- 
tem were not in existence, and con- 
sequently not exerting its gravita- 
tional pull on Lobe, what would 
Lobe's orbit around our sun be?" 

"I see," Gorge transmitted. 

"On that part I made no 
mistakes," Junior sent proudly. 
"Teacher checked all my answers 
himself." "Then his expression be- 
came glum. "The second part was 
to take each individual planet of 
each solar system and compute 
what effect its mass and location 
has, first, on its own solar system 
and, second, on our planet. I used 
the proper formulae and have all 
my answers, but teacher has not yet 
checked them." 

Ex?imining the youngster's glum 
expres^on, George retracted his 
sending antenna and thought to 
himself, "The lad doesn't seem to 
have much faith in the answers he 
got." 

"At this moment the great guided 
missile emplacements at Paris, Lon- 



don, Honolulu and Rio de Janeiro 
are preparing to launch destruction 
at every principal city in North 
America and Porto Rico," Marshall 
Matoshek informed his audience. 
"The fire-control officers of these 
batteries are watching and listening 
to me just as you others are. The 
signal to fire will come from me 
right there on your screen." 

He paused to let this sink in. 
"The Communist International is 
averse to destruction where peace- 
ful methods are possible, however. 
My aide-de-camp. General Serge 
Marik, is awaiting transoceanic con- 
nection with the President of the 
Tri-federation of North America at 
this very moment. If the three re- 
publics of North America and the 
Island of Porto Rico agree to sur- 
render immediately and uncondi- 
tionally, the order to fire will not 
be issued." 

The phone of the President of the 
Tri-federation of North America 
buzzed softly. He picked it up, lis- 
tened for a moment and smiled 
bleakly at the serious-faced men 
gathered about his desk. One by 
one they shook their heads and 
smiled bleakly back at him. 

"Tell the old windbag to go to 
Hell," the President said. 

"The answers seem to be sub- 
stantially correct," Horace con- 
ceded grudgingly. He glanced at 
George almost in apology. "The 
first time since school started his 
margin of error has been negligible. 
The exception which proves the 
rule." He bent his gray sight-tubes 
at the youngster. "Now compute 
for me the provable planet whose 
(Continued on page 117) 




rfP^ fv • ^» ^^ ^ ' ' • • "fc ••■5 -V S 

» XSMtow^ -^s^S^ ' ■* 5 - --• '•.' ■ s. . 



fFAen fAe &eZ/5 rang they would arise . 



Under the new system of the Managerials, the fight 
was not for life but for death! And great was the 
ingenuity of — 



The Victor 



By Bryce Walton 



Illustrated by Kelly Freas 



CHARLES MARQUIS had a 
fraction of a minute in which to 
die. He dropped through the tub- 
ular beams of alioydem steel and 
hung there, five thousand feet above 
the tiers and walkways below. At 
either end of the walkway crossing 
between the two power-hung build- 
ings, he saw the plainclothes se- 
curity officers running in toward 
him. 

He grinned and started to release 
his grip. He would think about 
them on the way down. His fingers 
wouldn't work. He kicked and 
strained and tore at himself with his 
own weight, but his hands weren't 
his own any more. He might have 
anticipated that. Some paralysis 
beam freezing his hands into the 
metal. 

He sagged to limpness. His chin 
dropped. For an instant, then, the 
fire in his heart almost went out, 



but not quite. It survived that one 
terrible moment of defeat, then 
burned higher. And perhaps some- 
thing in that desperate resistance 
was the factor that kept it burning 
where it was thought no flame 
could burn. He felt the rigidity of 
paralysis leaving his arms as he was 
lifted, helped along the walkway to 
a security car. 

The car looked like any other car. 
The officers appeared like all the 
other people in the clockwork cul- 
ture of the mechanized New Sys- 
tem. Marquis sought the protection 
of personal darkness behind closed 
eyelids as the monorail car moved 
faster and faster through the high 
clean air. Well — he'd worked with 
the Underground against the Sys- 
tem for a long time. He had known 
that eventually he would be caught. 
There were rumors of what hap- 
pened to men then, and even the 



43 



44 



BRYCE WALTON 



vaguest, unsubstantiated rumors 
were enough to indicate that death 
was preferable. That was the Un- 
derground's philosophy— better to 
die standing up as a man with some 
degree of personal integrity and 
freedom than to go on living as a 
conditioned slave of the state. 

He'd missed — but he wasn't 
through yet though. In a hollow 
tooth was a capsule containing a 
very high-potency poison. A little of 
that would do the trick too. But he 
would have to wait for the right 
time ... 



THE MANAGER was thin, his 
face angular, and he matched up 
with the harsh steel angles of the 
desk and the big room somewhere 
in the Security Building. His face 
had a kind of emotion — cold, de- 
tached, cynically superior. 

"We don't get many of your 
kind," he said. "Political prisoners 
are becoming more scarce all the 
time. As your number indicates. 
From now on, you'll be No. 5274." 

He looked at some papers, then 
up at Marquis. "You evidently 
found out a great deal. However, 
none of it will do you or what re- 
mains of your Underground fools 
any good." The Manager studied 
Marquis with detached curiosity. 
"You learned things concerning the 
Managerials that have so far re- 
mained secret." 

It was partly a question. Mar- 
quis' lean and darkly inscrutable 
face smiled slightly. "You're good 
at understatement. Yes — I found 
out what we've suspected for some 
time. That the Managerial class has 
found some way to stay young. 



Either a remarkable longevity, or 
immortality. Of all the social evils 
that's the worst of all. To deny the 
people knowledge of such a secret." 

The Manager nodded. "Then 
you did find that out? The Under- 
ground knows? Well, it will do no 
good." 

"It will, eventually. They'll go on 
and someday they'll learn the 
secret." Marquis thought of Mar- 
den. Marden was as old as the New 
System of statism and inhumanity 
that had started off disguised as 
social-democracy. Three-hundred 
and three years old to be exact. 

The Manager said. "No. 5274— 
you will be sent to the work colony 
on the Moon. You won't be back. 
We've tried re-conditioning rebels, 
but it doesn't work. A rebel has cer- 
tain basic deviant characteristics 
and we can't overcome them suffi- 
ciently to make happy, well-ad- 
justed workers out of you. How- 
ever on the Moon — you will con- 
form. It's a kind of social experi- 
ment there in associative reflex cul- 
ture, you might say. You'll conform 
all right." 

He was taken to a small, naked, 
gray-steel room. He thought about 
taking the capsule from his tooth 
now, but decided he might be ob- 
served. They would rush in an anti- 
dote and make him live. And he 
might not get a chance to take his 
life in any other way. He would try 
of course, but his knowledge of his 
future situation was vague — except 
that in it he would conform. There 
would be extreme conditioned-re- 
flex therapeutic techniques. And it 
would be pretty horrible. That was 
all he knew. 

He didn't see the pellet fall. He 



THE VICTOR 



45 



heard the slight sound it made and 
then saw the almost colorless gas 
hissing softly, clouding the room. 
He tasted nothing, smelled or felt 
nothing. 

He passed out quickly and pain- 
lessly. 



HE WAS marched into another of- 
fice, and he knew he was on the 
Moon. The far wall was spherical 
and was made up of the outer shell 
of the pressure dome which kept 
out the frigid cold nights and fur- 
nace-hot days. It was opaque and 
Marquis could see the harsh black 
and white shadows out there — the 
metallic edges of the far crater wall. 

This Manager was somewhat fat, 
with a round pink face and cold 
blue eyes. He sat behind a chrome 
shelf of odd shape suspended from 
the ceiling with silver wires. 

The Manager said. "No. 5274, 
here there is only work. At first, of 
course, you will rebel. Later you 
will work, and finally there will be 
nothing else. Things here are rigidly 
scheduled, and you will learn the 
routines as the conditioning bells 
acquaint you with them. We are 
completely seLf-sufficient here. We 
are developing the perfect scien- 
tifically-controlled society. It is a 
kind of experiment. A closed system 
to test to what extremes we can 
carry our mastery of associative re- 
flex to bring man security and hap- 
piness and freedom from responsi- 
bility." 

Marquis didn't say anything. 
There was nothing to say. He knew 
he couldn't get away with trying to 
kiU this particular Managerial 
specimen. But one man, alone, a 



rebel, with something left in him 
that still burned, could beat the sys- 
tem. He had to! 

"Our work here is specialized. 
During the indoctrination period 
you will do a very simple routine 
job in coordination with the cyber- 
netics machines. There, the ma- 
chines and the nervous system of 
the workers become slowly coopera- 
tive. Machine and man learn to 
work very intimately together. 
Later, after the indoctrination — 
because of your specialized knowl- 
edge of food-concentrate prepara- 
tion — we will transfer you to the 
food-mart. The period of indoctri- 
nation varies in length with the in- 
dividuals. You will be screened now 
and taken to the indoctrination 
ward. We probably won't be seeing 
one another again. The bells take 
care of everything here. The bells 
and the machines. There is never 
an error-^never any mistakes. Ma- 
chines do not make mistakes." 

He was marched out of there and 
through a series of rooms. He was 
taken in by generators, huge oscil- 
loscopes. Spun like a living tube 
through curtains of vacuum tube 
voltimeters, electronic power pan- 
els. Twisted and squeezed through 
rolls of skeins of hook-up wire. Bent 
through shieldings of every color, 
size and shape. Rolled over panel 
plates, huge racks of glowing tubes, 
elaborate transceivers. Tumbled 
down long surfaces of gleaming 
bakelite. Plunged through color-in- 
dexed files of resistors and capaci- 
tances. . . 

. . . here machine and man learn 
to work very intimately together. 

As he drifted through the ma- 
chine tooled nightmare, Marquis 



46 



BRYCE WALTON 



knew what he had been fighting all 
his life, what he would continue to 
fight with every grain of ingenuity. 
Mechanization — the horror of los- 
ing one's identity and becoming 
part of an assembly line. 

He could hear a clicking sound 
as tubes sharpened and faded in in- 
tensity. The clicking — rhythm, a 
hypnotic rhythm like the beating of 
his own heart — the throbbing and 
thrumming, the contracting and ex- 
panding, the pulsing and pound- 
ing. . . 

. , . the machines and the nerv- 
ous system of the workers become 
slowly cooperative, 

Beds were spaced ten feet apart 
down both sides of a long gray 
metal hall. There were no cells, no 
privacy, nothing but beds and the 
gray metalene suits with numbers 
printed across the chest. 

His bed, with his number printed 
above it, was indicated to him, and 
the guard disappeared. He was 
alone. It was absolutely silent. On 
his right a woman lay on a bed. No. 
329. She had been here a long 
time. She appeared dead. Her 
breasts rose and fell with a peculiar- 
ly steady rhythm, and seemed to be 
coordinated with the silent, invisi- 
ble throbbing of the metal walls. 
She might have been attractive 
once. Here it didn't make any dif- 
ference. Her face was gray, like 
metal. Her hair was cropped short. 
Her uniform was the same as the 
man's on Marquis' left. 

The man was No. 4901. He 
hadn't been here so long. His face 
was thin and gray. His hair was 
dark, and he was about the same 
size and build as Marquis. His 



mouth hung slightly open and his 
eyes were closed and there was a 
slight quivering at the ends of the 
fingers which were laced across his 
stomach. 

"Hello," Marquis said. The man 
shivered, then opened dull eyes and 
looked up at Marquis. "I just got 
in. Name's Charles Marquis." 

The man blinked. "I'm — I'm — 
No. 4901." He looked down at his 
chest, repeated the number. His 
fingers shook a little as he touched 
his lips. 

Marquis said. "What's this in- 
doctrination?" 

"You — learn. The bells ring — 
you forget — and learn — " 

"There's absolutely no chance of 
escaping?" Marquis whispered, 
more to himself than to 4901. 

"Only by dying," 4901 shivered. 
His eyes rolled crazily, then he 
turned over and buried his face in 
his arms. 

The situation had twisted all the 
old accepted values squarely 
around. Preferring death over life. 
But not because of any anti-life at- 
titude, or pessimism, or defeatism. 
None of those negative attitudes 
that would have made the will-to- 
die abnormal under conditions in 
which there would have been hope 
and some faint chance of a bearable 
future. Here to keep on living was 
a final form of de-humanized indig- 
nity, of humiliation, of ignominy, of 
the worst thing of all — loss of one's- 
self — of one's individuality. To die 
as a human being was much more 
preferable over continuing to live 
as something else — something nei- 
ther human or machine, but some- 
thing of both, with none of the dig- 
nity of either. 



THE VICTOR 



47 



THE SCREENING process hadn't 
detected the capsule of poison in 
Marquis' tooth. The capsule con- 
tained ten grains of poison, only 
one of which was enough to bring a 
painless death within sixteen hours 
or so. That was his ace in the hole, 
and he waited only for the best 
time to use it. 

Bells rang. The prisoners jumped 
from their beds and went through a 
few minutes of calisthenics. Other 
bells rang and a tray of small tins of 
food-concentrates appeared out of 
a slit in the wall by each bed. More 
bells rang, different kinds of bells, 
some deep and brazen, others high 
and shrill. And the prisoners 
marched off to specialized jobs co- 
operating with various machines. 

You slept eight hours. Calisthen- 
ics five minutes. Eating ten min- 
utes. Relaxation to the tune of mu- 
sical bells, ten minutes. Work period 
eight hours. Repeat. That was all 
of life, and after a while Mar- 
quis knew, a man would not be 
aware of time, nor of his name, nor 
that he had once been human. 

Marquis felt deep lancing pain as 
he tried to resist the bells. Each 
time the bells rang and a prisoner 
didn't respond properly, invisible 
rays of needle pain punched and 
kept punching until he reacted 
properly. 

And finally he did as the bells 
told him to do. Finally he forgot 
that things had ever been any other 
way. 

Marquis sat on his bed, eating, 
while the bells of eating rang across 
the bowed heads in the gray uni- 
forms. He stared at the girl, then at 
the man, 4901. There were many 
opportunities to take one's own life 



here. That had perplexed him from 
the start — -why hasn't the girl, and 
this man, succeeded in dying? 

And all the others? They were 
comparatively new here, all these 
in this indoctrination ward. Why 
weren't they trying to leave in the 
only dignified way of escape left? 

No. 4901 tried to talk, he tried 
hard to remember things. Some- 
times memory would break through 
and bring him pictures of other 
times, of happeniiigs on Earth, of a 
girl he had known, of times when 
he was a child. But only the mildest 
and softest kind of recollections. . . 

Marquis said. "I don't think 
there's a prisoner here who doesn't 
want to escape, and death is the 
only way out for us. We know 
that." 

For an instant, No. 4901 stopped 
eating. A spoonful of food concen- 
trate hung suspended between his 
mouth and the shelf. Then the food 
moved again to the urging of the 
bells. Invisible pain needles gouged 
Marquis' neck, and he ate again 
too, automatically, talking between 
tasteless bites. "A man's life at least 
is his own," Marquis said. "They 
can take everything else. But a man 
certainly has a right and a duty to 
take that life if by so doing he can 
retain his integrity as a human be- 
ing. Suicide—" 

No. 4901 bent forward. He 
groaned, mumbled "Don't— don't 
— " several times, then curled for- 
ward and lay on the floor knotted 
up into a twitching ball. 

The eating period was over. The 
lights went off. Bells sounded for 
relaxation. Then the sleep bells be- 
gan ringing, filling up the absolute 
darkness. 



48 



BRYCE WALTON 



Marquis lay there in the dark 
and he was afraid. He had the poi- 
son. He had the will. But he 
couldn't be unique in that respect. 
What was the matter with the 
others? All right, the devil with 
them. Maybe they'd been broken 
too soon to act. He could act. To- 
morrow, during the work period, he- 
would take a grain of the poison. 
Put the capsule back in the tooth. 
The poison would work slowly, 
painlessly, paralyzing the nervous 
system," finally the heart. Sometime 
during the beginning of the next 
sleep period he would be dead. 
That would leave six or seven hours 
of darkness and isolation for him to 
remain dead, so they couldn't get to 
him in time to bring him back. 

He mentioned suicide to the girl 
during the next work period. She 
moaned a little and curled up like 
a foetus on the floor. After an hour, 
she got up and began inserting 
punch cards into the big machine 
again. She avoided Marquis. 

Marquis looked around, went 
into a corner with his back to the 
room, slipped the capsule out and 
let one of the tiny, almost invisible 
grains, melt on his tongue. He re- 
placed the capsule and returned to 
the machine. A quiet but exciting 
triumph made the remainder of the 
work period more bearable. 

Back on his bed, he drifted into 
sleep, into what he knew was the 
final sleep. He was more fortunate 
than the others. Within an hour he 
would be dead. 



s 



OMEWHERE, someone was 

screaming. 

The sounds rose higher and 



higher. A human body, somewhere 
. . . pain unimaginable twisting up 
through clouds of belching steam 
. . . muscles quivering, ■ nerves 
twitching . . . and somewhere a 
body floating and bobbing and cry- 
ing . . . sheets of agony sweeping 
and returning in waves and the 
horror of unescapable pain expand- 
ing like a volcano of madness. . . 

Somewhere was someone alive 
who should be dead. 

And then in the dark, in absolute 
silence. Marquis moved a little. He 
realized, vaguely, that the scream- 
ing voice was his own. 

He stared into the steamy dark- 
ness and slowly, carefully, wet his 
lips. He moved. He felt his lips 
moving and the whisper sounding 
loud in the dark. 

I'm alive! 

He managed to struggle up out of 
the bed. He could scarcely remain 
erect. Every muscle in his body 
seemed to quiver. He longed to slip 
down into the darkness and escape 
into endless sleep. But he'd tried 
that. And he was still alive. He 
didn't know how much tirne had 
passed. He was sure of the poison's 
effects, but he wasn't dead. They 
had gotten to him in time. 

Sweat exploded from his body. 
He tried to remember more. Pain. 
He lay down again. He writhed and 
perspired on the bed as his tortured 
mind built grotesque fantasies out 
of fragments of broken memory. 

The routirie of the unceasing 
bells went on. Bells, leap up. Bells, 
calisthenics. Bells, eat. Bells, march. 
Bells, work. He tried to shut out 
the bells. He tried to talk to 4901. 
4901 covered up his ears and 
wouldn't listen. The girl wouldn't 



THE VICTOR 



49 



listen to him. 

There were other ways. And he 
kept the poison hidden in the cap- 
sule in his hollow tooth. He had 
been counting the steps covering the 
length of the hall, then the twenty 
steps to the left, then to the right to 
where the narrow corridor led 
again to the left where he had seen 
the air-lock. 

After the bells stopped ringing 
and the darkness was all around 
him, he got up. He counted off the 
steps. No guards, no alarms, noth- 
ing to stop him. They depended on 
the conditioners to take care of 
everything. This time he would do 
it. This time they wouldn't bring 
him back. 

No one else could even talk with 
him about it, even though he knew 
they all wanted to escape. Some 
part of them still wanted to, but 
they couldn't. So it was up to him. 
He stopped against the smooth, 
opaque, up-curving glasite dome. It 
had a brittle bright shine that re- 
flected from the Moon's surface. It 
was night out there, with an odd 
metallic reflection of Earthlight 
against the naked crags. 

He hesitated. He could feel the 
intense and terrible cold, the airless- 
ness out there fingering hungrily, 
reaching and whispering and wait- 
ing. 

He turned the wheel. The door 
opened. He entered the air-lock 
and shut the first door when the 
air-pressure was right. He turned 
the other wheel and the outer lock 
door swung outward. The out-rush- 
ing air spun him outward like a bal- 
loon into the awful airless cold and 
naked silence. 

His body sank down into the 



thick pumice dust that drifted up 
around him in a fine powdery 
blanket of concealment. He felt no 
pain. The cold airlessness dissolved 
around him in deepening darkening 
pleasantness. This time he was 
dead, thoroughly and finally and 
gloriously dead, even buried, and 
they couldn't find him. And even if 
they did finally find him, what good 
would it do them? 

Some transcendental part of him 
seemed to remain to observe and 
triumph over his victory. This time 
he was dead to stay. 

This time he knew at once that 
the twisting body in the steaming 
pain, the distorted face, the screams 
rising and rising were all Charles 
Marquis. 

Maybe a dream though, he 
thought. So much pain, so much 
screaming pain, is not real. In some 
fraction of a fraction of that interim 
between life and death, one could 
dream of so much because dreams 
are timeless. 

Yet he found himself anticipat- 
ing, even through the shredded, dis- 
sociated, nameless kind of pain, a 
repetition of that other time. 

The awful bitterness of defeat. 



HE OPENED his eyes slowly. It 
was dark, the same darkness. He 
was on the same bed. And the old 
familiar dark around and the fa- 
miliar soundlessness that was now 
heavier than the most thunderous 
sound. 

Everything around him then 
seemed to whirl up and go down in 
a crash. He rolled over to the floor 
and lay there, his hot face cooled 



50 



BRYCE WALTON 



by the cold metal. 

As before, some undeterminable 
interim of time had passed. And he 
knew he was alive. His body was 
stiff. He ached. There was a drum- 
ming in his head, and then a ring- 
ing in his ears as he tried to get up, 
managed to drag himself to an un- 
steady stance against the wall. He 
felt now an icy surety of horror that 
carried him out to a pin-point in 
space. 

A terrible fatigue hit him. He fell 
back onto the bed. He lay there try- 
ing to figure out how he could be 
alive. 

He finally slept pushed into it by 
sheer and utter exhaustion. The 
bells called him awake. The bells 
started him off again. He tried to 
talk again to 4901. They avoided 
him, all of them. But they weren't 
really alive any more. How long 
could he maintain some part of 
himself that he knew definitely was 
Charles Marquis? 

He began a ritual, a routine di- 
vorced from that to which all those 
being indoctrinated were subjected. 
It was a little private routine of his 
own. Dying, and then finding that 
he was not dead. 

He tried it many ways. He took 
more grains of the poison. But he 
was always alive again. 

"Y0U--49OI! Damn you— talk 
to me! You know what's been hap- 
pening to me?" 

The man nodded quickly over his 
little canisters of food-concentrate. 

"This indoctrination — ^you, the 
girl — you went crazy when I talked 
about dying — what — ?" 

The man yelled hoarsely. "Don't 
. . . don't say it! All this — what 
you've been going through, can't 



you understand? All that is part of 
indoctrination. You're no different 
than the rest of us! We've all had 
it! All of us. All of us! Some more 
maybe than others. It had to end. 
You'll have to give in. Oh God, I 
whh you didn't. I wish you could 
win. But you're no smarter than the 
rest of us. You'll have to give in!" 

It was 4901 's longest and most 
coherent speech. Maybe I can get 
somewhere with him, Marquis 
thought. I can find out something. 

But 4901 wouldn't say any more. 
Marquis kept on trying. No one, 
he knew, would evei' realize what 
that meant— ^to keep on trying to 
die when no could would let you, 
when you kept dying, and then kept 
waking up again, and you weren't 
dead. No one could ever under- 
stand the pain that went between 
the dying and the living. And even 
Marquis couldn't remember it 
afterward. He only knew how pain- 
ful it had been. And knowing that 
made each attempt a little harder 
for Marquis. 

He tried the poison again. There 
was the big stamping machine that 
had crushed him beyond any sem- 
blance of a human being, but he 
had awakened, alive again, whole 
again. There was the time he 
grabbed the power cable and felt 
himself, in one blinding flash, con- 
quer life in a burst of flame. He 
slashed his wrists at the beginning 
of a number of sleep periods. 

When he awakened, he was 
whole again. There wasn't even a 
scar. 

He suffered the pain of resisting 
the eating bells until he was so weak 
he couldn't respond, and he knew 
that he died that time too-r-from 



THE VICTOR 



51 



pure starvation. 

But I can't stay dead! 

". . • You'll have to give in!" 

HE DIDN'T know when it was. 
He had no idea now how long 
he had been here. But a guard ap- 
peared, a cold-faced man who 
guided Marquis back to the office 
where the fat, pink-faced little 
Manager waited for him behind 
the shelf suspended by silver wires 
from the ceiling. 

The Manager said. "You are the 
most remarkable prisoner we've 
ever had here. There probably will 
not be another like you here again." 

Marquis' features hung slack, his 
mouth slightly open, his lower lip 
drooping. He knew how he looked. 
He knew how near he was to crack- 
ing completely, becoming a sense- 
less puppet of the bells. "Why is 
that?" he whispered. 

"You've tried repeatedly to — 
you know what I mean of course. 
You have kept on attempting this 
impossible thing, attempted it more 
times than anyone else here ever 
has! Frankly, we didn't think any 
human psyche had the stuff to try 
it that many times— to resist that 
long." 

The Manager made a curious 
lengthened survey of Marquis' face. 
"Soon you'll be thoroughly indoc- 
trinated. You are. for all practical 
purposes, now. You'll work auto- 
matically then, to the bells, and 
think very little about it at all, ex- 
cept in a few stereotyped ways to 
keep your brain and nervous system 
active enough to carry out simple 
specialized work duties. Or while 
the New System lasts. And I im- 



agine that will be forever." 

"Forever . . ." 

"Yes, yes. You're immortal now," 
the Manager smiled. "Surely, after 
all this harrowing indoctrination 
experience, you realize that!" 

Immortal. I might have guessed. 
I might laugh now, but I can't. We 
who pretend to live in a hell that is 
worse than death, and you, the 
Managerials who live in paradise. 
We two are immortal. 

"That is, you're immortal as long 
as we desire you to be. You'll never 
grow any older than we want you 
to, never so senile as to threaten 
efficiency. That was what you were 
so interested in finding out on 
Earth, wasn't it? The mystery be- 
hind the Managerials? Why they 
never seemed to grow old. Why we 
have all the advantage, no senility, 
no weakening, the advantage of ac- 
cumulative experience without the 
necessity of re-learning?" 

"Yes," Marquis whispered. 

The Manager leaned back. He 
lit a paraette and let the soothing 
nerve-tonic seep into his lungs. He 
explained. 

"Every one of you political pris- 
oners we bring here want, above 
everything else, to die. It was a 
challenge to our experimental social 
order here. We have no objection 
to your killing yourself. We have 
learned that even the will to die can 
be conditioned out of the most de- 
termined rebel. As it has been con- 
ditioned out of you. You try to die 
enough times, and you do die, but 
the pain of resurrection is so great 
that finally it is impossible not only 
to kill yourself, but even to think of 
attempting it. 

Marquis couldn't say anything. 



52 



BRYCE WALTON 



The memory called up by the men- 
tion of self-destruction rasped along 
his spine like chalk on a blackboard. 
He could feel the total-recall of 
sensation, the threatening bursts of 
pain. "No . . ." he whispered over 
and over. "No — please — no — " 

The Manager said. "We won't 
mention it anymore. You'll never 
be able to try any overt act of self- 
destruction again.. 

The bright light from the ceiling 
lanced like splinters into the tender 
flesh of Marquis' eyeballs, danced 
about the base of his brain in red- 
dened choleric circles. His face had 
drawn back so that his cheekbones 
stood out and his nose was beak- 
like. His irises becamQ a bright 
painful blue in the reddened ovals 
of his eyes. 

The Manager yawned as he fin- 
ished explaining. "Each prisoner 
entering here has an identification 
punch-plate made of his unique 
electro-magnetic vibratory field. 
That's the secret of our immortality 
and yours. Like all matter, human 
difference is in the electro-magnetic, 
vibratory rates. We have these 
punch-plates on file for every pris- 
oner. We have one of you. Any dead 
human body we merely put in a 
tank which dissolves it into separate 
cells, a mass of stasis with potential- 
ity to be reformed into any type of 
human being of which we have an 
identification punch-plate, you see? 
This tank of dissociated cells is sur- 
rounded by an electro-magnetic 
field induced from a machine by 
one of the identification punch- 
plates. That particular human be- 
ing lives again, the body, its mind, 
its life pattern identical to that from 
which the original punch-plate was 



made. Each time you have died, 
we reduced your body, regardless of 
its condition, to dissociated cells in 
the tank. The identification punch- 
plate was put in the machine. Your 
unique electro-magnetic field re- 
formed the cells into you. It could 
only be you, as you are now. From 
those cells we can resurrect any one 
of whom we have an identification 
plate. 

"That is all. No. 5274. Now that 
you're indoctrinated, you will work 
from now on in the food-mart, be- 
cause of your experience. 



FOR AN undeterminable length 
of time, he followed the routines 
of the bells. In the big food-mart, 
among the hydroponic beds, and 
the canning machines; among the 
food-grinders and little belts that 
dropped cans of food-concentrate 
into racks and sent them off into 
the walls. 

He managed to talk more and 
more coherently with No. 4901. He 
stopped referring to suicide, but if 
anyone had the idea that Marquis 
had given up the idea of dying, they 
were wrong. Marquis was stubborn. 
Somewhere in him the flame still 
burned. He wouldn't let it go out. 
The bells coiJdn't put it out. The 
throbbing machines couldn't put it 
out. And now he had at last figured 
out a way to beat the game. 

During an eating period. Marquis 
said to 4901. "You want to die. 
Wait a minute — I'm talking about 
something we can both talk and 
think about. A murder agreement. 
You understand? We haven't been 
conditioned against killing each 
other. It's only an overt act of self- 



THE VICTOR 



53 



des — all right, we don't think about 
that. But we can plan a way to kill 
each other." 

4901 looked up. He stopped eat- 
ing momentarily. He was interested. 
"What's the use though?" Pain 
shadowed his face. "We only go 
through it — come back again — " 

"I have a plan. The way I have it 
worked out, they'll never bring 
either one of us back." 

That wasn't exactly true. One of 
them would have to come back. 
Marquis hoped that 4901 wouldn't 
catch on to the fact that he would 
have to be resurrected, but that 
Marquis never would. He hoped 
that 490 1's mind was too foggy and 
dull to see through the complex 
plan. And that was the way it 
worked. 

Marquis explained. 4901 listened 
and smiled. It was the first time 
Marquis had ever seen a prisoner 
smile. 

He left what remained of the 
capsule of poison where 4901 could 
get it. During one of the next four 
eating periods, 4901 was to slip the 
poison into Marquis' food can. 
Marquis wouldn't know what meal, 
or what can. He had to eat. The 
bells had conditioned him that 
much. And not to eat would be an 
overt act of self-destruction. 

He wasn't conditioned not to ac- 
cept death adrriinistered by another. 

And then, after an eating period, 
4901 whispered to him. "You're 
poisoned. It was in one of the cans 
you just ate." 

"Great!" almost shouted Mar- 
quis. "All right. Now I'll die by the 
end of the next work period. That 
gives us this sleep period and all the 
next work period. During that time 



I'll dispose of you as I've said." 

4901 went to his bed and the bells 
rang and the dark came and both 
of them slept. 



NUMBER 4901 resisted the con- 
ditioners enough to follow 
Marquis past his regular work 
room into the food-mart. As 
planned, 4901 marched on and 
stood in the steaming shadows be- 
hind the hydroponic beds. 

Marquis worked for a while at 
the canning machines, at the big 
grinding vats. Then he went over 
to 4901 and said. "Turn around 
now." 

4901 smiled. He turned around. 
"Good luck," he said. "Good luck 
— to youl" 

Marquis hit 4901 across the back 
of the neck with an alloy bar and 
killed him instantly. He changed 
clothes with the dead man. He put 
his own clothes in a refuse incinera- 
tor. Quickly, he dragged the body 
over and tossed it into one of the 
food-grinding vats. His head bobbed 
up above the gray swirling liquid 
once, then the body disappeared 
entirely, was ground finely and 
mixed with the other foodstuff. 

Within eight hours the cells of 
4901 would be distributed minute- 
ly throughout the contents of thou- 
sands of cans of food-concentrate. 
Within that time much of it would 
have been consumed by the inmates 
and Managers. 

At the end of that work period. 
Marquis returned to his cell. He 
went past his own bed and stopped 
in front of 490 1's bed. 

The sleep bells sounded and the 
dark came again. This would be 



Q''** 



BRYCE WALTON 



the final dark, Marquis knew. This 
time he had beat the game. The 
delayed-action poison would kill 
him. He had on 490 1's clothes with 
his identification number. He was 
on 4901's bed. 

He would die— as 4901. The 
guards would finally check on the 
missing man in the food-mart. But 
they would never find him. They 
would find 4901 dead, a suicide. 
And they would put the body la- 
beled 4901 in the tank, dissolve it 
into dissociated cells and they 
would subject those cells to the 
electro-magnetic field of 4901. 

And they would resurrect — 
4901. 

Not only have I managed to die, 
Marquis thought, but I've man- 
aged the ultimate suicide. There 
won't even be a body, no sign any- 
where that I have ever been at all. 
Even my cells will have been resur- 
rected as someone else. As a num- 
ber 4901. 

"And that's the way it was," No. 
4901 would tell new prisoners com- 
ing in. Sometimes they listened to 
him and seemed interested, but the 
interest always died during indoc- 
trination. But No. 490rs interest in 
the story never died. 

He knew that now he could 
never let himself die as a human 
being either, that he could never let 
himself become completely con- 
trolled by the bells. He'd been near- 
ly dead as an individual, but No. 
5274 had saved him from that 
dead-alive anonymity. He could 
keep alive, and maintain hope now 
by remembering what ,5274 had 
done. He clung to that memory. As 
long as he retained that memory of 



hope — of triumph — at least some 
part of him would keep burning, as 
something had kept on burning 
within the heart of 5274. 

So every night before the sleep 
bells sounded, he would go over the 
whole thing in minute detail, re- 
membering 5274's every word and 
gesture, the details of his appear- 
ance. He told the plan over to him- 
self every night, and told everyone 
about it who came in to the indoc- 
trination ward. 

Swimming up through the pain 
of resurrection, he had been a little 
mad at 5274 at first, and then he 
had realized that at least the plan 
had enabled one man to beat the 
game. 

"He will always be alive to me. 
Maybe, in a way, he's part of me. 
Nobody knows. But his memory 
will live. He succeeded in a kind of 
ultimate dying — no trace of him 
anywhere. But the memory of him 
and what he did will be alive when 
the New System and the Managers 
are dead. That spirit will assure the 
Underground of victory — someday. 
And meanwhile, I'll keep 5274 
alive. 

"He even knew the psychology of 
these Managers and their System. 
That they can't afford to make an 
error. He knew they'd still have 
that identification punch-plate of 
him. That they would have one 
more plate than they had prisoners. 
But he anticipated what they would 
do there too. To admit there was 
one more identification plate than 
there were prisoners would be to 
admit a gross error. Of course they 
could dissolve one of the other 
prisoners and use 5274's plate and 
(Continued on page 118) 



Women of earth had finally attained their objec- 
tive: a new world all their own and — without men! 
But was it?. 



Thy Name Is 



WOMAN 



By Kenneth D'Hara 



Illustrated by Zimmerman 



AFTER THE Doctor gave him 
the hypo and left the ship, Bow- 
ren lay in absolute darkness won- 
dering when the change would 
start. There would be pain, the 
Doctor had said. "Then you won't 
be aware of anything — anything at 
all." 

That was a devil of a thing, Bow- 
ren thought, not to be aware of the 
greatest adventure any man ever 
had. He, Eddie Bowren, the first 
to escape the Earth into space, the 
first man to Mars! 

He was on his back in a small 
square steel cubicle, a secretly con- 
structed room in the wall of the 
cargo bin of the big spaceship 
cradled at the New Chicago Port. 
He was not without fear. But be- 



fore the ship blasted he wouldn't 
care — he would be changed by 
then. He would start turning any 
minute now, becoming something 
else; he didn't know exactly what, 
but that wouldn't matter. After it 
was over, he wouldn't remember be- 
cause the higher brain centers, the 
cortex, the analytical mind, would 
be completely cut off, short-cir- 
cuited, during the alteration. 

The cubicle was close, hot, 
sound-proofed, like a tomb. "You 
will probably make loud unpleasant 
noises," the Doctor had said, "but 
no one will hear you." Don't worry 
about anything until you get to 
Mars." 

That was right, Bowren thought. 
My only problem is to observe, com- 



55 



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There wasn't a woman left on earth. They had 
just packed their bags and left. 



THY NAME IS WOMAN 



57 



pute, and get back into this dun- 
geon without being observed, and 
back to Earth. 

The idea was to keep it from the 
women. The women wouldn't go 
for this at all. They would object. 
The women would be able to bring 
into effect several laws dealing with 
spaceflight, among them the one 
against stowaways, and especially 
that particular one about aber- 
rated males sneaking into space and 
committing suicide. 

A lot of men had tried it, in the 
beginning. Some of them had man- 
aged it, but they had all died. For 
a long time, the men's egos hadn't 
been able to admit that the male 
organism was incapable of standing 
the rigors of acceleration. Women 
had had laws passed, and if the 
women caught him doing this, the 
punishment would be extreme for 
him, personally, and a lot more ex- 
treme for Earth civilization in gen- 
eral. If you could call it a civiliza- 
tion. You could call it anything, 
Bowren groaned — but it didn't 
make sense. A world without wom- 
en. A birthrate reduced to zero. 

A trickle of sweat slid past Bow- 
ren's eyes, loosening a nervous flush 
along his back that prickled pain- 
fully. His throat was tense and his 
heart pounded loud in the hot dark. 

A sharp pain ran up his body and 
exploded in his head. He tried to 
swallow, but something gagged in 
his throat. He was afraid of retch- 
ing. He lay with his mouth open, 
spittle dribbling over his lips. The 
pain returned, hammered at his en- 
trails. He fought the pain numbly, 
like a man grappling in the dark. 

The wave subsided and he lay 
there gasping, his fists clenched. 



"The pain will come in increas- 
ingly powerful waves," the Doctor 
had said. "At a certain point. It will 
be so great, the analytical mind will 
completely short-circuit. It will stay 
that way enroute to Mars, and 
meanwhile your body will rapidly 
change into that of a beast. Don't 
worry about it. A catalytic agent 
will return you to normal before 
you reach the planet. If you live, 
you'll be human again." 

A male human couldn't stand the 
acceleration. But a woman could. 
Animals could. They had experi- 
mented on human males and ani- 
mals in the giant centrifuges, and 
learned what to do. Animals could 
stand 25 "G" consistently, or cen- 
trifugal forces as high as 120 revolu- 
tions a minute. About 10 "G" was 
the limit of female endurance. Less 
for men. 

It had never been thoroughly de- 
termined why women had been able 
to stand higher acceleration. But 
human females had the same phys- 
ical advantages over men as female 
rats, rabbits, and cats over males of 
the same species. A woman's cellu- 
lar structure was different; her cen- 
ter of gravity was different, the 
brain waves given off during accel- 
eration were different. It was sus- 
pected that the autonomic nervous 
system in women could function 
more freely to protect the body dur- 
ing emergency situations. The only 
certainty about it was that no man 
had ever been able to get into space 
and live. 

But animals could so they had 
worked on it and finally they de- 
cided to change a man into an ani- 
mal, at least temporarily. Geneti- 



b8 



KENNETH O'HARA 



' ) ! aiu! Iiiocheinists and other spe- 
' i.ili-ts liad been able to do a lot 
with hormones and hard radiation 
ii'iitment. Especially with hor- 
mones. You could shoot a man full 
of some fluid or another, and do al- 
most anything to his organism. You 
could induce atavism, regression to 
'iome lower form of animal life — a 
highly speeded up regression. When 
you did that, naturally the analyti- 
cal mind, the higher thought cen- 
ters of a more recent evolutionary 
development, blanked out and the 
'primal mind took oyer. The body 
changed too, considerably. 

Bowren was changing. Then the 
pain came and he couldn't think. 
He felt his mind cringing— giving 
way before the onslaught of the 
pain. Dimly he could feel the agony 
in his limbs, the throbbing of his 
heart, the fading power of reason. 

He retched, languished through 
flaccid minutes. There were recur- 
ring spasms of shivering as he rolled 
his thickened tongue in the arid 
cavity of his mouth. And then, 
somewhere, a spark exploded, and 
drowned him in a pool of streaming 
flame. 



CONSCIOUSNESS returned 
slowly — much as it had gone — 
in waves of pain. It took a long 
time. Elements of reason and un- 
reason fusing through distorted 
nightmares until he was lying there 
able to remember, able to wonder, 
able to think. 

Inside the tiny compartment 
were supplies. A hypo, glucose, a 
durolene suit neatly folded which 
he put on. He gave himself a 
needle, swallowed the tablets, and 



waited until energy and a sense of 
well-being gave him some degree 
of confidence. 

It was very still. The ship would 
be cradled on Mars now. He lay 
there, relaxing, preparing for the 
real challenge. He thought of how 
well the Earth Investigation Com- 
mittee had planned the whole 
thing. 

The last desperate attempt of 
man to get into space — to Mars — a 
woman's world. At least it was sup- 
posed to be. Whatever it was, it 
wasn't a man's world. 

The women didn't want Earth 
anymore. They had something bet- 
ter. But what? There were other 
questions, and Bowren's job was to 
find the answers, remain unob- 
served and get back aboard this 
ship. He would then hypo himself 
again, and when the ship blasted off 
to Earth, he would go through the 
same transition all over again. 

He put on the soft-soled shoes as 
well as the durolene suit and 
crawled through the small panel 
into the big cargo bin. It was empty. 
Only a dim yellow light shone on 
the big cargo vices along the curved 
walls. 

He climbed the ladders slowly, 
cautiously, through a gnawing si- 
lence of suspense, over the mesh 
grid flooring along the tubular cor- 
ridors. He wondered what he would 
find. 

Could the women have been in- 
fluenced by some alien life form on 
Mars? 

That could explain the fact that 
women had divorced themselves 
completely from all men, from the 
Earth. Something had to explain 
it. 



THY NAME IS WOMAN 



59 



There was one other possibility. 
That the women had found human 
life on Mars. That was a very re- 
mote possibility based on the idea 
that perhaps the Solar system had 
been settled by human beings from 
outer space, and had landed on two 
worlds at least. 

Bowren remembered how his 
wife, Lora, had told him he was an 
idiot and a bore, and had walked 
out on him five years before; taken 
her three months course in astroga- 
tion, and left Earth. He hadn't 
heard of her or from her since. It 
was the same with every other man, 
married or not. The male ego had 
taken a beating for so long that the 
results had been psychologically de- 
vastating. 

The ship seemed to be empty of 
any human being but Bowren. He 
reached the outer lock door. It was 
ajar. Thin cold air came through 
and sent a chill down his arms, tin- 
gling in his fingers. He looked out. 
It was night on Mars, a strange red- 
tinted night, the double moons 
throwing streaming color over the 
land. 

Across the field, he saw the glow- 
ing Luciferin-like light of a small 
city. Soaring spherical lines. Noth- 
ing masculine about its architecture. 
Bowren shivered. 

He climbed down the ladder, the 
air biting into his lungs. The silence 
down there on the ground under 
the ship was intense. 

He stood there a minute. The 
first man on Mars. Man's oldest 
dream realized. 

But the great thrill he had an- 
ticipated was dulled somewhat by 
fear. A fear of what the women had 
become, and of what might have in- 



fluenced their becoming. 

He took out a small neurogun 
and walked. He reached what 
seemed to be a huge park that 
seemed to surround the city. It 
grew warmer and a soft wind whis- 
pered through the strange wide- 
spreading trees and bushes and ex- 
otic blossoms. The scent of blossoms 
drifted on the wind and the sound 
of running water, of murmuring 
voices. 

The park thickened as Bowren 
edged into its dark, languid depth. 
It seemed as though the city radi- 
ated heat. He dodged suddenly be- 
hind a tree, knelt down. For an in- 
stant he was embarrassed seeing the 
two shadowy figures in each others 
arms on a bench in the moonlight. 
This emotion gave way to shock, 
anger, fear. 

One of them was a — man ! 

Bowren felt the perspiration start 
from his face. An intense jealousy 
surrendered to a start of fearful 
curiosity. Where had the man come 
from? 

Bowren's long frustration, the 
memory of his wife, the humilia- 
tion, the rejection, the abandon- 
ment, the impotent rage of loneli- 
ness—it all came back to him. 

He controlled his emotion some- 
how. At least he didn't manifest it 
physically. He crept closer, lis- 
tened. ■ ^ 

"This was such a sweet idea," the 
woman was whispering. "Bringing 
me here to the park tonight. That's 
why I love you so, Marvin. You're 
always so romantic." 

"How else could I think of you, 
darling," the man said. His voice 
was cultured, precise, soft, thick 
with emotion. 



60 



KENNETH O'HARA 



"You're so sweet, Marvin." 

"You're so beautiful, darling. I 
think of you every minute that 
you're away on one of those space 
flights. You women are so wonder- 
ful to have conquered space, but 
sometimes I hate the ships that take 
you away from me." 

The woman sighed. "But it's so 
nice to come back to you. So excit- 
ing, so comfortable." 

The kiss was long and deep. Bow- 
ren backed away, almost smashing 
into the tree. He touched his fore- 
head. He was sweating heavily. His 
beard dripped moisture, There was 
a hollow panicky feeling in his stom- 
ach. Now he was confused as well 
as afraid. 

Another couple was sitting next 
to a fountain, and a bubbling brook 
ran past them, singing into the 
darkness, Bowren crouched behind 
a bush and listened. It might have 
been the man he had just left, still 
talking. The voice was slightly dif- 
rent, but the dialogue sounded very 
much the same. 

"It must be wonderful to be a 
woman, dear, and voyage between 
the stars. But as I say, I'm glad to 
stay here and tend the home and 
mind the children, glad to be here, 
my arms open to you when you 
come back." 

"It's so wonderful to know that 
you care so much. I'm so glad you 
never let me forget that you love 
me." 

"I love you, every minute of 
(-very day. Just thinli — two more 
months and one week and we will 
have been married ten years." 

"It's so lovely," she said. "It 
seems like ten days. Like those first 
thrilling ten days, darling, going 



over and over again." 

"I'll always love you, darling." 

"Always?" 

"Always." 

The man got up, lifted the wom- 
an in his arms, held her high. "Dar- 
ling, let's go for a night ride across 
the desert." 

"Oh, you darling. You always 
think of these little adventures." 

"All life with you is an adven- 
ture." 

"But what about little Jimmie 
and Janice?" 

"I've arranged a sitter for them." 

"But darling — ^you mean you — 
Oh, you're so wonderful. You 
think of everything. So practical, 
yet so romantic . . . so — " 

He kissed her and ran away, 
holding her high in the air, and 
her laughter bubbled back to where 
Bowren crouched behind the bush. 
He kept on crouching there, staring 
numbly at the vacancy the fleeing 
couple had left in the shadows. 
"Good God," he whispered. "After 
ten years—" 

He shook his head and slowly 
licked his lips. He'd been married 
five years. 

It hadn't been like this. He'd 
never heard of any marriage main- 
taining such a crazy high romantic 
level of manic neuroticism as this 
for very long. Of course the women 
had always expected it to. But the 
men — 

And anyway — where did the 
men come from? 



BOWREN moved down a wind- 
ing lane between exotic blos- 
soms, through air saturated with 
the damp scent of night-blooming 



THY NAME IS WOMAN 



61 



flowers. He walked cautiously 
enough, but In a kind of daze, his 
mind spinning. The appearance of 
those men remained in his mind. 
When he closed his eyes for a mo- 
ment, he could see them. 

Perfectly groomed, impeccably 
dressed, smiling, vital, bronze- 
skinned, delicate, yet strong fea- 
tures; the kind of male who might 
be considered, Bowren thought, to 
be able to assert just the right de- 
gree of aggressiveness without being 
indelicate. 

Why, he thought, they've found 
perfect men, their type of men. 

He dodged behind a tree. Here 
it was again. Same play, same scene 
practically, only the players were 
two other people. A couple stand- 
ing arm in arm beside a big pool 
full of weird darting fish and throw- 
ing upward a subdued bluish light. 
Music drifted along the warm cur- 
rents of air. The couple were sil- 
, houetted by the indirect light. The 
pose is perfect, he thought. The set- 
ting is perfect. 

"You're so wonderful, darling," 
the man was saying, "and I get so 
lonely without you. I always see 
your face, hear your voice, no mat- 
ter how long you're away." 

"Do you? Do you?" 

"Always. Your hair so red, so 
dark it seems black in certain lights. 
Your eyes so slanted, so dark a 
green they seem black usually too. 
Your nose so straight, the nostrils 
flaring slightly, the least bit too 
much sometimes. Your mouth so 
red and full. Your skin so smooth 
and dark. And you're ageless, dar- 
ling. Being married to you five 
years, it's one exciting adventure." 
"I love you so," she said. "You're 



everything any woman could want 
in a husband. Simply everything, 
yet you're so modest with it all. I 
still remember how it used to be. 
Back there . . . with the other men 
I mean?" 

"You should forget about them, 
my dear." 

"I'm forgetting, slowly though. It 
may take a long time to forget com- 
pletely. Oh, he was such an un- 
pleasant person, so uninteresting 
after a while. So inconsiderate, so 
.self-centered. He wasn't romantic 
at all. He never said he loved me, 
and when he kissed me it was mere 
routine. He never thought about 
anything but his work, and when he 
did come home at night, he would 
yell at me about not having ordered 
the right dinner from the cafelator. 
He didn't care whether he used 
hair remover on his face in the 
mornings or not. He was surly and 
sullen and selfish. But I could have 
forgiven evcrj'thing else if he had 
only told me every day that he loved 
me, that he could never love any- 
one else. The things that you do and 
say, darling." 

"I love you," he said. "I love you, 
I love you. But please, let's not talk 
about him anymore. It simply hor- 
rifies mel" 

Bowren felt the sudden sickening 
throbbing of his stomach. The de- 
scription. Now the slight familiarity 
of voice. And then he heard the 
man say, murmuring, "Lois . . . dar- 
ling Lois . . ." 

Lois! LOIS! 

Bowren shivered. His jowls dark- 
ened, his mouth pressed thin by the 
powerful clamp of his jaws. His 
body seemed to loosen all over and 
he fell into a crouch. Tiredness and 



62 



KENNETH O'HARA 



torn nerves and long-suppressed 
emotion throbbed in him, and all 
the rage and suppression and frus- 
tration came back in a wave. He 
yelled. It was more of a sound, a 
harsh prolonged animal roar of 
pain and rage and humiliation. 

"Lois . . ." He ran forward. 

She gasped, sank away as Bowren 
hit the man, hard. The man sighed 
and gyrated swinging his arms, tee- 
tering and flipped backward into 
the pool among the lights and the 
weird fish. A spray of cold water 
struck Bowren, sobering him a little, 
sobered his burst of mindless pas- 
sion enough that he could hear the 
shouts of alarm ringing through 
the trees. He turned desperately. 

Lois cringed. He scarcely remem- 
bered her now, he realized. She was 
different. He had forgotten every- 
thing except an image that had 
changed with longing. She hadn't 
been too impressive anyway, maybe, 
or maybe she had. It didn't matter 
now. 

He tried to run, tried to get away. 
He heard Lois' voice, high and 
shrill. Figures closed in around him. 
He fought, desperately. He put a 
few temporarily out of the way with 
the neurogun, but there were al- 
ways more. Men, men everywhere. 
Hundreds of men where there 
should be no men at all. Well- 
groomed, strong, bronzed, ever- 
smiling men. It gave him intense 
pleasure to crack off a few of the 
smiles. To hurl the gun, smash with 
his fists. 

Then the men were swarming all 
over him, the clean faces, the smil- 
ing Ir.i'^rant men, and he went 
down under the weight of men. 

He tried to move. A blow fell 



hard and his head smashed against 
the rocks. He tried to rise up, and 
other blows beat him down and he 
was glad about the darkness, not be- 
cause it relieved the pain, but be- 
cause it curtained off the faces of 
men. 



AFTER A TIME it was as 
though he was being carried 
through a dim half-consciousness, 
able to think, too tired to move or 
open his eyes. He remembered how 
the men of Earth had rationalized 
a long time, making a joke out of it. 
Laughing when they hadn't wanted 
to laugh, but to hate. It had never 
been humorous. It had been a war 
between the sexes, and the women 
had finally won, destroying the men 
psychologically, the race physically. 
Somehow they had managed to go 
on with a culture of their own. 

The war between the sexes had 
never really been a joke. It had 
been deadly serious, right from the 
beginning of the militant feminist 
movements, long before the last big 
war. There' had always been basic 
psychological and physiological dif- 
ferences. But woman had refused to 
admit this, and had tried to be the 
"equal" if not the better of men. 
For so long woman had made it 
strictly competitive, and in her sub- 
conscious mind she had regarded 
men as wonderful creatures, cap- 
able of practically anything, and 
that woman could do nothing better 
than to emulate them in every pos- 
sible way. There was no such thing 
as a woman's role unless it had been 
the same as a man's. That had gone 
on a long time. And it hadn't been 
a joke at all. 



THY NAME IS WOMAN 



63 



How ironic it was, there at the 
last! All of man's work through the 
ages had been aimed at the stars. 
And the women had assumed the 
final phase of conquest! 

For a long time women had been 
revolting against the masculine sym- 
bols, the levers, pistons, bombs, tor- 
pedoes and hammers, all manifesta- 
tions of man's whole activity of 
overt, aggressive power. 

The big H-bombs of the last great 
war had seemed to be man's final 
symbol, destructive. And after that, 
the spaceships, puncturing space, 
roaring outward, the ultimate mas- 
culine symbol of which men had 
dreamed for so long, and which 
women had envied. 

And then only the women could 
stand the acceleration. It was a 
physiological fact. Nothing could 
change it. Nothing but what they 
had done to Bowren. 

All of man's evolutionary strug- 
gle, and the women had assumed 
the climax, assumed all the past 
wrapped up in the end, usurped 
the effect, and thereby psychologi- 
cally assuming also all the thou- 
sands of years of causation. 

For being held down, being made 
neurotic by frustration and the im- 
possibility of being the "equal" of 
men, because they were fundamen- 
tally psychologically and physiologi- 
cally different, women had taken to 
space with an age-old vengeance. 
Personal ego salvation. 

But they hadn't stopped there. 
What had they done? What about 
the men? A man for every woman, 
yet no men from Earth. That much 
Bowren knew. Native Martians? 
What? 

He had been transported some- 



where in a car of some kind. He 
didn't bother to be interested. He 
couldn't get away. He was held 
fast. He refused to open his eyes 
because he didn't want to see the 
men who held him, the men who 
had replaced him and every other 
man on Earth. The men who were 
destroying the civilization of Earth. 

The gimmicks whereby the 
women had rejected Earth and left 
it to wither and die in neglect and 
bitter, bitter wonderment. 

He was tired, very tired. The 
movement of the car lulled him, 
and he drifted into sleep. 

He opened his eyes and slowly 
looked around. Pretty pastel ceil- 
ing. A big room, beautiful and 
softly furnished, with a marked ab- 
sence of metal, of shiny chrome, 
of hanshness or brittle angles. It 
was something of an office, too, 
with a desk that was not at all busi- 
ness-like, but still a desk. A warm 
glow suffused the room, and the air 
was pleasantly scented with natural 
smelling perfumes. 

A woman stood in the middle of 
the room studying him with de- 
tached interest. She was beautiful, 
but in a hard, mature, withdrawn 
way. She was dark, her eyes large, 
liquid black and dominating her 
rather small sharply-sculptured 
face. Her mouth was large, deeply 
red. She had a strong mouth. 

He looked at her a while. He 
felt only a deep, bitter resentment. 
He felt good though, physically. He 
had probably been given something, 
an injection. He sat up. Then he got 
to his feet. 

She kept on studying him. "A 
change of clothes, dry detergent, 
and hair remover for vour face are 



64 



KENNETH O'HARA 



in there, through that door," she 
said. 

He said : "Right now I'd rather 
talk." 

"But don't you want to take off 
that awful— beard?" 

"The devil with it! Is that so im- 
portant? It's natural isn't it for a 
man to have hair on his face? I like 
hair on my face." 

She opened her mouth a little 
and stepped back a few steps. 

"And anyway, what could be less 
important right now than the way 
I look?" 

"I'm— I'm Gloria Munsel," she 
said hesitantly. "I'm President of 
the City here. And what is your 
name, please?" 

"Eddie Bowren. What are you 
going to do with me?" 

She shrugged. "You act like a 
mad man. I'd almost forgotten 
what you men of Earth were like. 
I was pretty young then. Well, 
frankly, I don't know what we're 
going to do with you. No precedent 
for the situation. No laws concern- 
ing it. It'll be up to the Council." 

"It won't be pleasant for me," he 
said, "I can be safe in assuming 
that." 

She shrugged again and crossed 
her arms. He managed to control 
his emotions somehow as he looked 
at the smooth lines of her body un- 
der the long clinging gown. She 
was so damn beautiful! A high 
proud body in a smooth pink gown, 
dark hair streaming back and shiny 
and soft. 



IT WAS torture. It had been for 
a long time, for him, for all the 
others. "Let me out of here!" he 



yelled harshly. "Put me in a room 
by myself!" 

She moved closer to him and 
looked into his face. The fragrance 
of her hair, the warmth of her 
reached out to him. Somehow, he 
never knew how, he managed to 
grin. He felt the sweat running 
down his dirty, bearded, battered 
face. His suit was torn and dirty. 
He could smell himself, the stale 
sweat, the filth. He could feel his 
hair, shaggy and long, down his 
neck, over his ears. 

Her lips were slightly parted, and 
wet, and she had a funny dark look 
in her eyes, he thought. She turned 
quickly as the door opened, and a 
man came in. He was only slightly 
taller than Gloria and he nodded, 
smiled brightly, bowed a little, 
moved forward. He carried a big 
bouquet of flowers and presented 
them to her. 

She took the flowers, smiled, 
thanked him, and put them on the 
table. The man said. "So sorry, 
darling, to intrude. But I felt I had 
to see you for a few minutes. I left 
the children with John, and dashed 
right up here. I thought we might 
have lunch together." 

"You're so thoughtful, dear," she 
said. 

The man turned a distasteful 
look upon Bowren. He said. "My 
dear, what is this?" 

"A man," she said, and then 
added. "From Earth." 

"What? Good grief, you mean 
they've found a way — ?" 

"I don't know. You'd better go 
back home and tend the yard today. 
Dale. I'll tell you all about it when 
I come home this evening. All 
right?" 



THY NAME IS WOMAN 



65 



"Well I — oh, oh yes, of course, if 
you say so, darling." 

"Thank you, dear." She kissed 
him and he bowed out. 

She turned and walked back to- 
ward Bowren. "Tell me," she said. 
"How did you get here alive?" 

Why not tell her? He was help- 
less here. They'd find out anyway, 
as soon as they got back to Earth on 
the cargo run. And even if they 
didn't find out, that wouldn't mat- 
ter either. They would be on guard 
from now on. No man would do 
again what Bowren had done. The 
only chance would be to build secret 
spaceships of their own and every- 
time one blasted, have every mem- 
ber of the crew go through what 
Bowren had. It couldn't last. Too 
much injury and shock. 

As he talked he studied the office, 
and he thought of other things. An 
office that was like a big beautiful 
living room. A thoroughly feminine 
office. Nor was it the type of office 
a woman would fix for a man. It 
was a woman's office. Everything, 
the whole culture here, was femi- 
nine. When he had finished she 
said. "Interesting. It must have 
been a very unpleasant experience 
for you." 

He grinned. "I suffered. But 
even though I've failed, it's worth 
all the suffering, if you'll tell me — 
where did all the ah — men come 
from?" 

She told him. It was, to say the 
least, startling, and then upon re- 
flection, he realized how simple it 
all was. No aliens. No native Mar- 
tians. A very simple and thoroughly 
logical solution, and in a way, typ- 
ically feminine. 

Hormone treatment and genetic 



manipulation, plus a thorough re- 
conditioning while the treatment 
was taking place. 

And the women had simply 
turned approximately half of their 
number into men! 

She paused, then went on. "Il 
was the only way we could see it, 
Mr. Bowren. Earth was a man's 
world, and we could never have be- 
longed in it, not the way we wanted 
to. Men wouldn't stand it anyway, 
down there, having us going into 
space, usurping their masculine 
role. And anyway-^you men of 
Earth had become so utterly unsat- 
isfactory as companions, lovers, and 
husbands, that it was obvious noth- 
ing could ever be done about it. 
Not unless we set up our own cul- 
ture, our own civilization, our 
way." 

"But meanwhile we die down 
there," Bowren said. "Logic is nice. 
But mass murder, and the death of 
a whole world civilization seems 
pretty cold from where I'm stand- 
ing. It's pathological, but it's too 
late to think about that. It's done 
now." 

"But we're happy here," she said. 
"For the first time in a long, long 
time, we women feel like ourselves. 
We feel truly independent. The men 
around us are the kind of men we 
want, instead of us being what they 
want us to be, or even worse, the 
men being what we want them to 
be but resenting it and making life 
unbearable for both. All through 
the process of being changed into 
men, our women undergo such a 
thorough conditioning that they can 
never be anything else but model 
men in every sense. Their attitude 
as women with which they started 



66 



KENNETH O'HARA 



treatment helped. They knew what 
they wanted in men, and they be- 
came what we wanted them to be, 
as men." 

"Very logical," Bowren said. "It 
smells to heaven it's so logical." It 
was purely impulse, what he did 
then. He couldn't help it. It wasn't 
logical either. It was emotional and 
he did it because he had to do it 
and because he didn't see any rea- 
son why he shouldn't. 

He put his arm out suddenly, 
hooked her slim waist, and pulled 
her to him. Her face flushed and 
his eyes were very wide and dark as 
she looked up at him. 

"Listen," he said. "The whole 
thing's insane. The lot of you are 
mad, and though I can't help it, I 
hate to see it happen this way. 
What kind of men are these? These 
smiling robots, these goons who are 
nothing else but reflections in a 
woman's mirror? Who'd want to be 
a man like that. Who would really 
want a man like that? And who 
would want a woman who was just 
what a man wanted her to be? 
Where's the fire? Where's the in- 
dividuality? Where's the conflict, 
the fighting and snarling and rag- 
ing that makes Hving, All this is 
apathy, this is death! You don't 
grow by being agreeable, but by 
conflict." 

"What are you trying to sell 
now?" she whispered. 

He laughed. It was wild sound- 
ing to him, not very humorous real- 
ly, but still it was laughter. "Selling 
nothing, buying nothing." He 
pulled her closer and kissed her. 
Her lips parted shghtly and he 
could feel the warmth of her and 
the quick drawing of breath. Then 



she pushed him away. She raised 
her hand and brushed it over his 
face. 

She shook her head slowly. "It 
feels rather interesting," she said, 
"your face. I've never felt a man's 
face before, that wasn't smooth, the 
way it should be." 

He laughed again, more sofdy 
this time. "Why reform your men? 
You women always wanted to do 
that." 

"We don't reform men here," she 
said. "We start them out right — 
frorh the beginning." 

She backed away from him. She 
raised her hand to her face and her 
fingers touched her lips. Wrinkles 
appeared between her eyes and she 
shook her head again. Not at him, 
but at something, a thought per- 
haps, he couldn't tell. 

Finally she said. "That was an 
inexcusable, boorish thing to do. 
A typical thoughtless egomanical 
Earth-male action if there ever was 
one. Our men are all perfect here, 
and in comparison to them, you're 
a pretty miserable speciman. I'm 
glad you showed up here. It's given 
me, and other women, a good 
chance for comparison. It makes 
our men seem so much better even 
than they were to us before." 

He didn't say anything. 

"Our men are perfect! Perfect 
you understand? What are you 
smiling about? Their character is 
good. They're excellent conversa- 
tionalists, well informed, always at- 
tentive, moderate, sympathetic, in- 
terested in life, and always inter- 
ested in us." 

"And I suppose they are also — 
human?" 

"This is nonsense," she said, her 



THY NAME IS WOMAN 



67 



voice rising slightly. "You will take 
that door out please. The Council 
will decide what's to be done with 
you." 

He nodded, turned, and went 
through the door. There were two 
men there waiting for him. They 
were both blond, with, light blue 
eyes, just medium height^ perfectly 
constructed physically, perfectly 
groomed, impeccably dressed. They 
smiled at him. Their teeth had been 
brushed every morning. One of 
them wrinkled his nose, obviously 
as a reaction to Bowren. The other 
started to reach, seemed reluctant 
to touch him. 

"Then don't touch me, brother," 
Bowren said. "Put a hand on me, 
and ril slug you." The man reached 
away, and it gave Bowren an 
ecstatic sensation to send his fist 
against the man's jaw. It made a 
cracking sound and the man's head 
flopped back as his knees crumbled 
and he swung around and stretched 
out flat on his face on the long 
tubular corridor. 

"Always remember your eti- 
quette," Bowren said. "Keep your 
hands off people. It isn't polite." 

The other man grunted some- 
thing, still managing to smile, as he 
rushed at Bowren. Bowren side- 
stepped, hooked the man's neck in 
his arm and ran him across the hall 
and smashed his head into the wall. 

He turned, opened the door jnto 
Munsel's office, dragged both of 
them in and shut the door again. 
He walked down the corridor sev- 
eral hundred feet before a woman 
appeared, in some kind of uniform, 
and said. "Will you come this way 
please?" 

He said he would. 



IT WAS a small room, comfort- 
ably furnished. Food came 
through a panel in the wall when- 
ever he pressed the right button. A 
telescreen furnished entertainment 
when he pushed another button. 
Tasty mixed drinks responded to 
other buttons. 

He never bothered to take ad- 
vantage of the facilities offered for 
removing his beard, bathing, or 
changing clothes. Whatever fate 
was going to befall him, he would 
just as soon meet it as the only man 
on Mars who looked the part — ac- 
cording to Bowren's standards, at 
least — at least by comparison. 

He thought of trying to escape. If 
he could get away from the city and 
into the Martian hills, he could die 
out there with some dignity. It was 
a good idea, but he knew it was im- 
possible. At least so far, it was im- 
possible. Maybe something would 
come up. An opportunity and he 
would take it. That was the only 
thing left for him. 

He was in there for what seemed 
a long time. It was still, the light 
remaining always the same. He 
slept a number of times and ate sev- 
eral times. He did a lot of thinking 
too. He thought about the men on 
Earth and finally he decided it 
didn't matter much. They had 
brought it on themselves in a way, 
and if there was anything like cause 
and effect operating on such a scale, 
they deserved no sympathy. Man 
had expressed his aggressive male 
ego until he evolved the H-bombs 
and worse, and by then the whole 
world was neurotic with fear, in- 
cluding the women. Women had al- 
ways looked into the mirror of the 
future (or lack of it), of the race, 



68 



KENNETH O'HARA 



and the more she had looked, the 
more the insecurity. The atomic 
wars had created a kind of final 
feeling of insecurity as far as men 
were concerned, forced them to be- 
come completely psychologically and 
physiologically self-sufficient. They 
had converted part of their own 
kind into men, their own kind 
of men, and theoretically there 
wouldn't be any more insecurity 
brought on by the kind of male 
psychology that had turned the 
Earth around for so long. 

All right, drop it right there then, 
he thought. It's about all over. It's 
all over but the requiem. Sometime 
later he was in a mood where he 
didn't mind it when an impersonal 
face appeared on the screen and 
looked right at him and told him 
the Council's verdict. It was a 
woman, and her voice was cold, 
very cold. 

"Mr. Eddie Bowren. The Coun- 
cil has reached a verdict regarding 
what is to be done with you. You 
are to be exterminated. It is pain- 
less and we will make it as pleasant 
as possible." 

"Thanks," Bowren said. A wom- 
an's world was so polite, so manner- 
ly, so remembering of all the social 
amenities. It yvould be so difficult 
after a while to know when anyone 
was speaking, or doing anything 
real. "Thanks," he said again. "I 
will do all in my power to make my 
extermination a matter of mutual 
pleasure." By now he was pretty 
drunk, had been drunk for some 
time. He raised his glass. "Here's 
to a real happy time of it, baby." 

The screen faded. He sat there 
brooding, and he was still brooding 
when the door unlocked and opened 



softly. He sat there and looked at 
Gloria Munsel for a while, wonder- 
ing why she was here. Why she 
would look so provocative, so en- 
chanting, so devastating, whatever 
other words you cared to dream up. 

She moved toward him with a 
slight swaying motion that further 
disturbed him. He felt her long 
white fingers rubbing over the stiff 
wiry beard of his face. "I dreamed 
about the way that beard felt last 
night," she said. "Silly of me wasn't 
it? I heard of the way you smell, 
of the way you yelled at me, so im- 
politely. Why did I dream of it, I 
said this morning, so now I'm here 
to find out why." 

"Get out and let me alone," Bow- 
ren yelled. "I'm going to be exter- 
minated. So let me alone to my 
own company." 

"Yes, I heard about that ver- 
dict," she said. She looked away 
from him. "I don't know why they 
made that choice. Well, I do in a 
way, they're afraid of you, your in- 
fluence. It would be very disruptive 
socially. Several of our men — " 

"It doesn't matter why," Bowren 
said. "What matters is that it will 
be as pleasant as possible. If you're 
going to kill a man, be nice about 
it." 

She stared down at him. Chills 
rippled down his back as her warm 
soft fingers continued to stroke his 
bearded chin and throat. He got 
up. It was too uncomfortable and 
it was torture. He said, "Get out 
of here. Maybe I'm not a conform- 
ist, but I'm damn human!" 

She backed away. "But — ^but 
what do you mean?" 

He got up and put the flat of his 
hands cupping her shoulder blades. 



THY NAME IS WOMAN 



69 



Her eyes stared wildly, and her lips 
. were wet and she was breathing 
heavily. He could see the vein puls- 
ing faster in her slim throat. She 
had an exciting body. 

He saw it then, the new slow 
smile that crept across her face. His 
left hand squirmed at the thick 
piled hair on her shoulders and he 
tugged and her face tilted further 
and he looked at the parted pouting 
lips. The palm of his right hand 
brushed her jaw and his fingers took 
her cheeks and brought her face 
over and he spread his mouth hard 
over her mouth. Her lips begged. 
Hammers started banging away in 
his stomach. 

Music from the screen was play- 
ing a crescendo into his pulse. They 
swayed together to the music, her 
head thrown back, her eyes closed. 
She stepped back, dropped her 
arms limply at her sides. There was 
the clean sweet odor of her hair. 

"I'd better gO' now," she whis- 
pered. "Before I do something that 
would result in my not being Presi- 
dent anymore." 



HE WIPED his face. Don't beg, 
he thought. The devil with her 
and the rest. A man could lose 
everything, all the women, not one, 
but all of them. He could live alone, 
a thousand miles from nowhere, at 
the North Pole like Amundsen, and 
it didn't matter. He could be killed 
pleasantly or unpleasantly, that 
didn't matter either. All that mat- 
tered was that he maintain some 
dignity, as a man. 

He stood there, not saying any- 
thing. He managed to grin. Final- 
ly he said, "Goodbye, and may your 



husband never say a harsh word to 
you or do anything objectionable as 
long as you both shall live, and may 
he love you every hour of every day, 
and may he drop dead." 

She moved in again, put her arms 
around him. There were tears in 
her eyes. She placed her cheek on 
his shoulder. "I love you," she whis- 
pered. "I know that now." 

He felt a little helpless. Tears, 
what could you do with a woman's 
tears? 

She sobbed softly, talking brok- 
enly. Maybe not to him, but to 
someone, somewhere. A memory, a 
shadow out of a long time back . . . 

"Maybe it's . . . it's all a mistake 
after all . . . maybe it is.' I've never 
been too sure, not for a while now. 
And then you — the way you talked 
and looked — the excitement. I 
don't know why. But the touch of 
your beard — your voice. I don't 
know what happened. We've car- 
ried it to extremes, extremes, Eddie. 
It was always this way with us — 
once we were sure of our man, and 
even before, when he was blinded 
by new love, we tried to make him 
over, closer to our idea of what was 
right. But now I know something 
. . . those faults and imperfections, 
most of them were men's, the real 
mens' chief attractions. Individual- 
ity, that's the thing, Eddie, that's it 
after all. And it's imperfections too, 
maybe more than anything else. Im- 
perfections . . . Oh, Eddie, you're 
close, much closer to human nature, 
to real vitality, through your imper- 
fections. Not imperfections. Eddie 
— your beard is beautiful, your dirt 
is lovely, your yelling insults are 
wonderful — and ..." 

She stopped a minute. Her hands 



70 



KENNETH O'HARA 



ran through his hair. "When you 
get a man made over, he's never 
very nice after that, Eddie. 
Never—" 

She sobbed, pulled his lips down. 
"Eddie— I can't let them kill you." 

"Forget it," he said. "No one can 
do anything. Don't get yourself in 
a jam. You'll forget this in a little 
while. There's nothing here for a 
guy like me, and I'm not for you." 

She stepped way, her hands still 
on his shoulders. "No — I didn't 
mean that. I've got to go on living 
in the world I helped make, among 
the men we all decided we would 
always want. I've got to do that. 
Listen, Eddie, how did you intend 
to get back to Earth?" 

He told her. 

"Then it's just a matter of get- 
ting back aboard that same ship, 
and into this secret room unob- 
served?" 

"That's all, Gloria. That and 
keep from being exterminated 
first." 

"I can get you out of here. We'll 
have to do it right now. Take that 
beard off, and get that hair 
smoothed down somehow. I hate to 
see it happen, but I've got to get 
you out of here, and the only way to 
do it is for you to be like one of the 
men here." 

He went to work on his face and 
hair. She went out and returned 
with a suit like the other men wore. 
He got into it. She smiled at him, a 
hesitant and very soft smile, and she 
kissed him before they left the room 
and cautiously went out of the City. 

The way was clear across the 
moonlit field and under the deep 
d.ii k shadow of the ship. He kissed 



her and then took hold of the lad- 
der. She slipped a notebook of velo- 
nex, full of micro-film, into his 
hands. "Goodbye, Eddie," she said. 
"Take this with you. It may give 
you men down there a way out. I 
never thought much before of how 
mad it must be for you." 

He took the folder. He looked up 
at the double moons painting the 
night a fantastic shifting wave of 
changing light. And then he looked 
down at Gloria Munsel again, at 
the glinting shine of her hair. 

"Goodbye," he said. "I might 
stay after all — except that a lot of 
men on Earth are waiting for me to 
tell them something. They'll be sur- 
prised. I — " He hesitated. Her 
eyes widened. Warmth of emotion 
moved him and he said, or started 
to say, "I love you," and many other 
things, but she interrupted him. 

"Don't please, Eddie. Anything 
you said now would sound just like 
what my devoted husband says, 
every day. I'd rather you wouldn't 
say anything at all now, Eddie, just 
goodbye." ■ 

"Goodbye then," he said again. 

He looked back from the opened 
door in the ship's cargo bin. Her 
face was shining up at him, her lips 
slightly parted, her cheeks wet. It 
was a picture he would never be 
able to forget, even if he wanted to. 

"When you forget to shave in the 
mornings, Eddie, think of me." 



BOWREN stood up and ad- 
dressed the investigation com- 
mittee which had sent him to Mars. 
He hadn't made any statements at 
all up to this moment. The ten 
members of the Committee sat there 



THY NAME IS WOMAN 



71 



behind the half-moon table. None 
of them moved. Their faces were 
anxious. Some of them were per- 
spiring. 

Eddie told them what he had 
seen, what he had heard, his own 
impressions about the whole thing, 
about his escape. He left out cer- 
tain personal details that were, to 
him, unnecessary to this particular 
report. 

The Committee sat there a while, 
then started to talk. They talked at 
once for a while, then the Chairman 
rapped for order and stood up. His 
face had an odd twist to it, and his 
bald head was pocked with per- 
spiration. 

Eddie Bowren took the book of 
micfo-film from under his arm, the 
one Gloria Munsel had given him. 
He put it on the table. "That has 
been thoroughly checked by scien- 
tists, and their report is included. I 
thought it surely was a false report, 
until they checked it. The first page 
there gives a brief outline of what 
the micro-film contains." 

The Chairman read, then looked 
up. He coughed. He mopped at his 
head. 

Eddie said. "As I saw it up there, 
this is the way it's going to stay. 
We'll never get into space, not with- 
out using the methods that were 
used with me. And they're too de- 
structive. I've been examined. I 
could never go through it again and 
live. And that's the only way Earth 
men can ever get into space. The 
women aren't coming back to us. 
They have husbands of their own 
now. Believe me, those women 
aren't going to leave their perfect 



husbands. They've set up a com- 
pletely feminine culture. It's theirs, 
all theirs. They'll never give it up to 
return to a masculine world, and 
that's what Earth will always be to 
them. There are only a few women 
left on Earth, and they're of such 
subnormal intelligence as to be only 
a menace to any possible future 
progeny. Our birthrate has stopped. 
We arc living under extremely 
abnormal circumstances without 
women. I have, as I said before, 
but one recommendation to this 
Committee, and you take it for 
what it's worth. I personally don't 
care — much— and that isn't impor- 
tant either." 

"What is your recommendation, 
Bowren?" 

"I assure you that the formulas 
in that book will work for us, Mr. 
Chairman. Will you accept the re- 
ports of the scientists who investi- 
gated those formulas?" 

"I will," the Chairman said 
hoarsely. "I'll accept it. Why 
not—?" 

Bowren grinned thinly at the ten 
men. "There's the secret of doing 
what the women have done. It'll 
work for us too. Our only chance 
for survival is to follow their pro- 
cedure. We've got to start turning 
at least a percentage of ourselves 
into women." 

One man leaned forward and put 
his head on his arms. The others 
sat there, in a kind of stunned numb 
attitude, their eyes drifting vaguely. 

The Chairman coughed and 
looked around the silent hall, and 
at the other ten men in it. 

"Any volunteers?" he whispered. 



• THE END - 



THE 



By Frank 
Quattrocchi 




Illustrated by Tom Beecham 



There were but three days in which to decipher the 
most cryptic message ever delivered to earth. 



GEORGE HARRISON noticed 
the flashing red light on the 
instrument panel as he turned onto 
the bridge to Balboa Island. Just 
over the bridge, he pulled the car 
to the curb and flipped the switch 
with violence. "Harrison," he mut- 
tered. 

"How's the water, fella?" asked 



the voice of Bob Mills, his assistant. 

There was a beautiful moon over 
the island. The surf lapped at the 
tiers of the picturesque bridge. Soft 
music was playing somewhere. 
There was a tinkle of young laugh- 
ter on the light sea breeze. 

Harrison was vacationing and he 
viewed the emergency contact from 




74 



FRANK QUATTROCCHI 



Intersolar Spaceport with annoy- 
ance. 

"What do you want, Bob?" 

"Sorry, George," Bob Mills said 
more seriously. "I guess you got to 
come back." 

"Listen — " protested Harrison. 

"Orders, George — orders from 
upstairs." 

Harrison took a long look at the 
pleasant island street stretching out 
before him. Sea-corroded street 
lamps lit the short, island thorough- 
fare. People in light blue jeans, 
bronzed youths in skipper caps, 
deep-tanned girls in terry-cloth. 

"What the hell is it?" ' 

"Don't know, but it's big. Bet- 
ter hurry." He clicked off. 

Harrison skidded the car into a 
squealing turn. Angrily, he raced 
over the bridge and onto the roar- 
ing highway. Thirty minutes later 
Intersolar Spaceport, Los Angeles, 
blazed ahead of him. 

The main gate guards waved 
him in immediately and two cycle 
guards ran interference for him 
through the scores of video news- 
men who lined the spaceport street. 

Bob Mills met him at the en- 
trance to the Administration build- 
ing. 

"Sorry, George, but — " 

"Yeah. Oh, sure. Now what the 
hell is it all about?" 

Mills handed him a sheaf of tele- 
transmittals. They bore heavy secret 
stamps. Harrison looked up quiz- 
zically. 

"You saw the video boys," Mills 
said. "The wheels think there might 
be some hysteria." 

"Any reason for it?" 

"Not that we know of — not that 
/ know of anyway. The thing is 



coming in awfully fast- — speed of 
light times a factor of at least two, 
maybe four." 

Harrison whistled softly and 
scanned the reports frowning. 

"They contacted us — " 

"What?" 

" — in perfect Intersolar Con- 
vention code. Said they were com- 
ing in. That's all. The port boys 
have done all they could to find out 
what to expect and prepare for it. 
Somebody thought Engineering 
might be needed — that's why they 
sent for you." 

"Used Intersolar Convention 
code, eh," mused Harrison. 

"Yes," said Mills. "But there's 
nothing like this thing known in the 
solar system, nothing even close to 
this fast. Besides that, there was a 
sighting several days ago that's be- 
ing studied. 

"One of the radio observatories 
claims to have received a new sig- 
nal from one of the star clusters . . ." 



THE HUGE metal vessel settled 
to a perfect contact with its as- 
signed strip. It hovered over the 
geometric center of the long run- 
way and touched without raising a 
speck of dust. 

Not a sound, not a puff of smoke 
issued from any part of it. Imme- 
diately it rose a few feet above the 
concrete and began to move toward 
the parking strip. It moved with 
the weightless ease of an ancient 
dirigible on a still day. It was easily 
the largest, strangest object ever 
seen before at the spaceport. 

A team of searchlight men swiv- 
elled the large spot atop the tower 
and bathed the ship in orange light. 



THE SWORD 



75 



"What's that mean?" asked Mills 
paging his way through a book. 

" 'Halt propulsion equipment,' I 
think," said Harrison. 

"It's a good thing the code mak- 
ers were vague about that," smiled 
Mills. "It's a good thing they didn't 
say jets or rockets — 'cause this thing 
hasn't got any." 

"Attention!" 

That single word suddenly is- 
sued from the alien ship. 

"The Races of Wan greet you." 

It might have been the voice of a 
frog. It was low, gutteral, entirely 
alien, entirely without either en- 
thusiasm or trace of human emo- 
tion. 

"Jesus!" muttered Mills. 

Scores of video teams focused 
equipment on the gleaming alien. 

"The Races of Wan desire con- 
tact with you." 

"In English yet!" amazed Mills. 

"The basis of this contact to- 
gether with its nature are depend- 
ent upon you!" 

The voice had become ugly. 
There was nothing human about it 
save only the words, which were in 
flawless English. 

"Your system has long been un- 
der surveillance by the Races of 
Wan. Your — ^progress has been 
noted." 

There was almost a note of con- 
tempt, thought Harrison, in the last 
sentence. 

"Your system is about to reach 
others. It therefore becomes a mat- 
ter of urgency that the Races of 
Wan make contact. 

"Your cultural grasp is as yet 
quite small. You reach four of your 
own system's planets. You have at- 
tempted — with little success — colo- 



nization. You anticipate further 
penetrations. 

"You master the physical con- 
ditions of your system with difS- 
culty. You are a victim of many of 
the natural laws — natural laws 
which you dimly perceive. 

"But you master yourselves with 
greatest difficulty, and you are in- 
finitely more a victim of forces 
within your very nature — forces 
which you Iznow almost not at all." 

"What the hell—" began Mills. 

"Because of this disparity your 
maturity as a race is much in doubt. 
There are many among the cultures 
of the stars who would consider 
your race deviant and deadly. 
There are a very few who would 
welcome you to the reaches of 
space. 

"But most desire more informa- 
tion. Thus our visit. We have come 
to gather data that will determine 
your — disposition — 

"Your race accepts the principle 
of extermination. You relentlessly 
seek and kill for commercial or po- 
litical advantage. You live in mis- 
trust and envy and threat. Yet, as 
earthllngs, you have power. It is 
not great, but it contains a threat. 
We wish now to know the extent of 
that threat. 

"Here is the test." 

Suddenly an image resolved itself 
on the gleaming metal of the ship 
itself. 

It was a blueprint. 

A hundred cameras focused on it. 

"Construct this. It is defective. 
Correct that which renders it not 
useful. We shall return in three days 
for your solution." 

"Good God!" exclaimed Harri- 
son. "It's a — sword!" 



76 



FRANK QUATTROCCHf 



"A what?" asked Mills. 

"A sword — people used to chop 
each other's heads off with them." 

Almost at once the metal giant 
was seen to move. Quickly it re- 
traced its path across the apron, re- 
mained poised on the center of the 
runway, then disappeared almost 
instantaneously. 



THE INTERSOLAR COUN- 
CIL weathered the storm. The 
representative of the colony on 
Venus was recalled, his political 
life temporarily ended. A vigilante 
committee did for a time picket the 
spaceport. But the tremendous 
emotional outbursts of the first day 
gradually gave way to a semblance 
of order. 

Video speakers, some of them 
with huge followings, still de- 
nounced the ISC for permitting the 
alien to land in the first place. 
Others clamored for a fleet to 
pursue the arrogant visitor. And 
there were many fools who chose to 
ignore the implications of the 
strange speech and its implied 
threat. Some even thought it was a 
gigantic hoax. 

But most men soon came to re- 
store their trust in the scientists of 
the Intersolar Council. 

Harrison cast down the long sheet 
of morning news that had rolled 
out of the machine. 

"The fools! They'll play poUtics 
right up to the last, won't they?" 

"What else?" asked Mills. "Play- 
ing politics is as good a way as any 
of avoiding what you can't figure 
out or solve." 

"And yet, what the hell are we 
doing here?" Harrison mused. 



"Listen to this." 

He picked up a stapled sheaf of 
papers from his desk. 

" 'Analysis of word usage indi- 
cates a complete knowledge of the 
English language' — that's brilliant, 
isn't it? "The ideational content 
and general semantic tone of the 
alien speech indicates a relatively 
high intelligence. 

" 'Usage is current, precise . . .' 
Bob, the man who wrote that re- 
port is one of the finest semantics 
experts in the solar system. He's the 
brain that finally broke that ancient 
Martian ceremonial language they 
found on the columns." 

"Well, mastermind," said Mills. 
"What will the Engineering report 
say when you get around to writing 
it?" 

"Engineering report? What are 
you talking about?" 

"You didn't read the memo on 
your desk then? The one that re- 
quested a preliminary report from 
every department by 2200 today.'" 

"Good God, no," said Harrison 
snapping up the thin yellow sheet. 
"What in hell has a sword got to do 
with Engineering?" 

"What's it got to do with Seman- 
tics?" mocked Robert Mills, 

Construct this. It is defective. 
Correct that which renders it not 
useful. 

Harrison's eyes burned. He would 
have to quit pretty soon and dictate 
the report. There wasn't any use in 
trying to go beyond a certain point. 
You got so damned tired you 
couldn't think straight. You might 
as well go to bed and rest. Bob Mills 
had gone long before. 

He poured over the blueprint 



THE SWORD 



77 



again, striving to concentrate. Why 
in hell had he not given up alto- 
gether? What possible contribution 
could an engineer make toward the 
solution of such a problem? 

Construct this. 

You simply made the thing ac- 
cording to a simple blueprint. You 
tried out what you got, found out 
what it was good for, found out 
then what was keeping it from do- 
ing that. You fixed it. 

Well, the sword had been con- 
structed. Fantastic effort had been 
directed into producing a perfect 
model of the print. Every minute 
convolution had been followed to 
an incredible point of perfection. 
Harrison was willing to bet there 
was less than a ten thousandths er- 
ror — even in the handle, where the 
curves seemed to be more artistic 
than mechanical. 

It is defective. 

What was defective about it? No- 
body had actually tried the ancient 
weapon, it was true. You didn't go 
around chopping people's heads 
off. But experts on such things had 
examined the twelve-pound blade 
and Jiad pronounced it "well bal- 
anced" — whatever that meant. It 
would crack a skull, sever arteries, 
kill or maim. 

Correct ... 

What was there to correct? Could 
you make it maim or kill better? 
Gould you sharpen it so that it 
would go through thick clothing or 
fur? Yes. Could you make it a bit 
heavier so that it might slice a metal 
shield? Yes, perhaps. All of these 
things had been half-heartedly sug- 
gested. But nobody had yet pro- 
posed any kind of qualitative 
change or been able to suggest any 



kind of change that would meet the 
next admonition of the alien: 

Correct that which renders it not 
useful. 

What actually could be done to a 
weapon to make it useful? Matter 
of fact, what was there about the 
present weapon that made it not 
useful. Apparently it was useful as 
hell — useful enough to cut a man's 
throat, pierce his heart, slice an arm 
off him . . . 

What were the possible swords; 
what was the morphology of con- 
cept sword? 

Harrison picked up a dog-eared 
report. 

There was the rapier, a thin, 
light, extremely flexible kind of 
sword (if you considered the word 
"sword" generic, as the Semantics 
expert had pointed out). It was 
good for duels, man-to-man com- 
bat, usually on what the ancients 
had called the "field of honor." 

There were all kinds of short 
swords, dirks, shivs, stilettos, dag- 
gers. They were the weapons of 
stealth men— and sometimes wom- 
en — used in the night. The assas- 
sin's weapon, the glitter in the dark- 
ened alley. 

There were the machetes. Jungle 
knives, cane-cutting instruments. 
The bayonets . . . 

You could go on and on from 
there, apparently. But what did you 
get? They were all more or less use- 
ful, Harrison supposed. There was 
nothing more you could do with any 
kind of sword that was designed for 
a specific purpose. 

Harrison sighed in despair. He 
had expected vastly more when he 
had first heard the alien mention 
"test". He had expected some com- 



78 



FRANK QUATTROCCHI 



plex instrument, something new to 
Terra and her colonies. Something 
involving complex and perhaps un- 
known principles of an alien tech- 
nology. Something appropriate to 
the strange metal craft that trav- 
eled so very fast. 

Or perhaps a paradox. A thing 
that could not be constructed with- 
out exploding, like a lattice of U235 
of exactly critical size. Or an .instru- 
ment that must be assembled in an 
impossible sequence, Hke a clock 
with a complete, single-pieced outer 
shell. Or a part of a thing that 
could be "corrected" only if the 
whole thing were visualized, con- 
structed, and tested. 

No, the blueprint he held now in- 
volved an awareness that must 
prove beyond mere technology, or 
at least Terran technology. Maybe 
it involved an awareness that trans- 
cended Terran philosophy as well. 

Harrison slapped the pencil 
down on his desk, rose, put his coat 
on, and left the office. 

". . . we are guilty as the angels 
of the bible were guilty. Pride! 
That's it, folks, pride. False 
pride ..." 

Harrison fringed the intent 
crowd of people cursing when, fre- 
quently, someone carelessly bumped 
into him in an effort to get nearer 
the sidewalk preacher. 

"We tried to live with the angels 
above. We wanted to fly like the 
birds. And then we wanted to fly 
like the angels . . ." 

Someone near Harrison muttered 
an "Amen". Harrison wove his way 
through them wondering where the 
hundreds of such evangelists had 
come from so suddenly. 



"Ya know, folks, the angels them- 
selves got uppity once. They wanted 
to be hke Gawd himself, they did. 
Now, it's us." 

There was a small flutter of 
laughter among the crowd. It was 
very quickly suppressed — so quickly 
that Harrison gained a new appre- 
ciation of the tenor of the crowd. 

"That's right, laugh! Laugh at 
our folly!" continued the thin- 
faced, bright-eyed man. "It was a 
sword that the angel used to kick 
Adam and Eve out of the gar- 
den. The sword figures all through 
the bible, folks. You ought to read 
the bible. You ought to get to know 
it. It's all there. All there for you 
to read . . ." 

By Christ, thought Harrison. 
Here was an aspect of the concept, 
sword, he had not considered. Mor- 
phological thinking required that 
all aspects of a concept be explored, 
all plotted against all others for pos- 
sible correlation . . . 

No. That was silly. The bible was 
a beautiful piece of literature and 
some people believed it inspired. 
But the great good men who wrote 
the bible had little scientific knowl- 
edge of a sword. They would simply 
describe the weapon as a modern 
fiction writer would describe a 
blaster — ^without knowing any more 
about one than that it existed and 
was a weapon. 

Surely the ISC's weapons expert 
could be trusted to know his swords. 

"Go on home," Mills pleaded. 
"You're shot and you know it. You 
said yourself this isn't our show." 

"You go home. Bob. I'm all 
right." 

"George . . . you're acting 



THE SWORD 



79 



strange. Strange as hell." 

"I'm all right. Leave me alone," 
snapped Harrison becoming irri- 
table. 

Mills watched silently as the 
haggard man slipped a tablet into 
his mouth. 

"It's all right, Bob," smiled Har- 
rison weakly. "I know how to use 
Benzedrine." 

"You damn fool, you'll wreck 
yourself . . ." 

But the engineer ignored him. He 
coiitinued paging his way through 
the book — the bible, no less. George 
Harrison and the bible! 

Mills was awakened by the tele- 
phone. Reaching in the dark for 
it he answered almost without 
reaching consciousness. 

It was Harrison. 

"Bobj listen to me. If an angel 
were to look at us right now, what 
would he think?" 

"For God's sake!" Mills cried 
into the instrument. "What's up? 
You still at the office?" 

"Yeah, answer the question." 

"Hold on, George. I'll be down 
and get you. What you been drink- 
ing?" 

"Bob, would he — she — think 
much of us? Would the angel figure 
we were . . ." 

"How the hell would / know?" 

"No, Bob, what you should have 
asked is 'how the hell would he 
know.' " 

In a daze Mills heard the click as 
the other hung up. 

"Mr. Harrison, your assistant is 
looking for you." 

"Yes, I know. Kirk. But will you 
do it?"' 



"Mr. Harrison, we only got one 
of them. If we screw it up it'll take 
time to make another and today's 
the day, you know." 

"I'll take the blame." 

"Mr. Harrison, you look kind of 
funny. Hadn't I better . . ." 

Harrison was sketching a drawing 
on a piece of waste paper. He was 
working in quick rough strokes, 
copying something from a book. 
_ "They'll blame us both, Mr. Har- 
rison. Anyway, it might hold up 
somebody who's got a real idea . . ." 

"7 have a real idea. Kirk. I'm 
going to draw it for you." 

The metal worker noticed that 
the book Harrison was copying from 
was a dictionary, a very old and 
battered one. 

"Here, can you follow what I've 
drawn?" 

The metal worker accepted it 
reluctantly, giving Harrison an odd, 
almost patronizing look. "This is 
crazy." 

"Kirk!" 

"Look, Mr. Harrison. We worked 
a long time together. You . . ." 

Harrison suddenly rose from the 
chair. 

"This is our one chance of beat- 
ing this thing, no rpatter how crazy 
it seems. Will you do the job?" 

"You believe you got something, 
eh," the other said. "You think you 
have?" 

"I have to have." 

"Gentlemen," said the President 
of the Intersolar Council. "There 
is very little to say. There can be no 
denying the fact that we have ex- 
hausted our efforts at finding a 
satisfactory solution. 

"The contents of this book of re- 



80 



FRANK QUATTROCCHl 



ports represents the greatest con- 
centration of expert reasoning 
perhaps ever applied to a single 
problem. 

"But alas, the problem remains — 
unsolved." 

He paused to glance at his wrist- 
watch. 

"The aliens return in an hour. As 
you very well know there is one 
action that remains for us. It is one 
we have held to this hour. It is one 
that has always been present and 
one that we have been constantly 
urged to use. 

"Force, gentlemen. It is not in- 
significant. It lies at our command. 
It represents the technology of the 
Intersolar alliance. I will entertain 
a motion to use it." 

There were no nay votes. 



THE ALIEN arrived on sched- 
ule. The ship grew from a 
tiny bright speck in the sky to full 
size. It settled to a graceful landing 
as before on the strip and silently 
moved into the revetment. 

Again it spoke in the voice of the 
frog, but the tone was, if anything, 
less human this time. 

"Earthmen, we have come for 
your solution." 

At that instant a hundred gun 
crews stiffened and waited for a 
signal behind their carefully camou- 
flaged blast plates and inside dum- 
my buildings .... 

Harrison was running. The Ad- 
ministration building was empty. 
His footsteps echoed through the 
long, silent halls. He headed for 
an emergency exit that led directly 
to the blast tunnel. All doors were 
locked. 



The only way was over the wall. 
He paused and tossed the awkward, 
heavy object over the ten-foot wall. 
Then, backing toward the building, 
he ran and jumped for a hold onto 
the wall's edge. He failed by several 
inches to reach it. 

"Earthmen, we have come for 
your solution." 

He ran at the wall once more. 
This time he caught a fair hold 
with one hand. Digging at the 
rough concrete with his feet he was 
able to secure the hold and begin 
pulling his body upward. 

Quickly he was over the wall and 
onto the apron, a hundred yards 
from the shining metal ship. 

"Wait!" he shouted. "Wait, for 
God's sake!" 

Picking up the object he_ had 
tossed over the wall, he raised it 
above his head and ran toward the 
alien ship. 

"Wait! Here is the solution," he 
gasped. 

Somehow the command to fire 
was not given. There was a long 
moment of complete silence on the 
field. Nothing moved. 

Then the voice of the frog 
boomed from the alien ship. 

"The solution appears to be cor- 
rect." 

The alien left three days later. 
Regular communications would be- 
gin within the week. Future meet- 
ings would work out technical 
difficulties. Preliminary trade agree- 
ments, adequately safeguarded, 
were drafted and transmitted to the 
ship. The Races of Man and the 
Races of Wan were in harmony. 

"It was simply too obvious for 



THE SWORD 



« 



any of us to notice," explained Har- 
rison. "It took that street-comer 
evangelist to jar something loose — 
even then it was an accident." 

"And the rest of us — " started 
Mills. 

"While all of us worked on the 
assumption that the test involved a 
showing of strength— a flexing of 
technological muscle." 

"I still don't see—" 

"Well, the evangelist put the 
problem on the right basis. He 
humbled us, exalted the aliens — 
that is, he thought the alien was 
somehow a messenger from God to 
put us in our places." 

"We were pretty humble our- 
selves, especially the last day," pro- 
tested Mills. 

"But humble about our tech- 
nology" put in Harrison. "The 
aliens must be plenty far beyond us 
technologically. But how about 
their cultural superiority. Ask your- 
self how. a culture that could pro- 
duce the ship we've just seen could 
survive without — well destroying 
itself." 

"I still don't understand." 

"The aliens developed pretty 
much equally in all directions. They 
developed force — plenty of it, 
enough force to kick that big ship 
through space at the speed of light 
plus. They must also have learned 
to control force, to live with it." 

"Maybe you better stick to the 
sword business," said Mills, 

"The sword is the crux of the 
matter. What did the alien say 
about the sword? 'It is defective.' 
It is defective, Bob. Not as an in- 
strument of death. It will kill a man 



or injure him well enough. 

"But a sword — or any other in- 
strument of force for that matter — 
is a terribly ineffectual tool. It was 
originally designed to act as a tool 
of social control. Did it — or any 
subsequent weapon of force — do a 
good job at that? 

"As long as man used swords, or 
gunpowder, or atom bombs, or hy- 
drogen bombs, he was doomed to a 
fearful anarchy of unsolved prob- 
lems and dreadful immaturity. 

"No, the sword is not useful. To 
fix it — to 'correct that which ren- 
ders it not useful' — meant to make 
it something else. Now what in the 
hell did that mean? AVhat can you 
do with a .sword?" 

"You mean besides cut a man in 
two with it," said Mills. 

"Yes, what can you do with it 
besides use it as a weapon? Here 
our street-corner friend referred me 
to the right place: The bible! 

"They shall beat their swords into 
ploughshares, and their spears into 
pruning-hooks ; nation shall not lift 
up sword against nation, neither 
shall they learn war any more. 

"The aliens just wanted to know 
if we meant what we said." 

"Do we?" 

"We better. It's going to take a 
hell of a lot more than a silly 
ploughshare to convince those 
babies on that ship. But there's 
more to it than that. The ability 
of a culture finally to pound all of 
its swords — its intellectual ones as 
well as its steel ones — into plough- 
shares must be some kind of least 
common denominator for cultures 
that are headed for the stars." 



THE END 



Beneath the stagnant water shadowed by water 
lilies Harry found the fascinating world of the 
rotifers — but it was their world, and they resented 
intrusion. 



™^ ROTIFERS 



By Robert Abernathy 



Illustrated by Virgil Finlay 



HENRY CHATHAM knelt by 
the brink of his garden pond, 
a glass fish bowl cupped in his thin, 
nervous hands. Carefully he dipped 
the bowl into the green-scummed 
water and, moving it gently, let 
trailing streamers of submerged 
water weeds drift into it. Then he 
picked up the old scissors he had 
laid on the bank, and clipped the 
stems of the floating plants, getting 
as much of them as he could in the 
container. 

When he righted the bowl and 
got stifHy to his feet, it contained, he 
thought hopefully, a fair cross-sec- 
tion of fresh-water plankton. He 
was jjlcased with himself for re- 
iiicmbering that term from the book 
111' had studied assiduously for the 
List few nights in order to be able 
lo I opn with Harry's inevitable 
(|ii' ;uiiis. 

i licrr was even a shiny black 



water beetle doing insane circles on 
the surface of the water in the fish 
bowl. At sight of the insect, the eyes 
of the twelve-year-old boy, who 
had been standing by in silent ex- 
pectation, widened with interest. 

"What's that thing. Dad?" he 
asked excitedly. "What's that crazy 
bug?" 

"I don't know its scientific name, 
I'm afraid," said Henry Chatham. 
"But when I was a boy we used to 
call them whirligig beetles." 

"He doesn't seem to think he has 
enough room in the bowl," said 
Harry thoughtfully. "Maybe we 
better put him back in the pond. 
Dad." 

"I thought you might want to 
look at him through the micro- 
scope," the father said in some sur- 
prise. 

"I think we ought to put him 
back," insisted Harry. 



82 




fc.^ • ' ilk ' .* 

*». 1. ' 



Ijf'i " 










\if f '' 






84 



ROBERT ABERNATHY 



Mr. Chatham held the dripping 
bowl obligingly. Harry's hand, a 
thin boy's hand with narrow sensi- 
tive fingers, hovered over the water, 
and when the beetle paused for a 
moment in its gyrations, made a 
dive for it. 

But the whirligig beetle, saw the 
hand coming, and, quicker than a 
wink, plunged under the water and 
scooted rapidly to the very bottom 
of the bowl. 

Harry's young face was rueful; 
he wiped his wet hand on his trou- 
sers. "I guess he wants to stay," he 
supposed. 

The two went up the garden 
path together and into the house, 
Mr. Chatham bearing the fish bowl 
before him like a votive oflfering. 
Harry's mother met them at the 
door, brandishing an old towel. 

"Here," she said firmly, "you 
wipe that thing off before you bring 
it in the house. And don't drip any 
of that dirty pond water on my good 
carpet." 

"It's not dirty," said Henry Chat- 
ham. "It's just full of life, plants 
and animals too small for the eye 
to see. But Harry's going to see 
them with his microscope." He ac- 
cepted the towel and wiped the 
water and slime from the outside of 
the bowl; then, in the living-room, 
he set it beside an open window, 
where the life-giving summer sun 
slanted in and fell on the green 
plants. 



THE BRAND-NEW microscope 
stood nearby, in a good light. It 
was an expensive microscope, no 
toy for a child, and it magnified 
four hundred diameters. Henry 



Chatham had bought it because he 
believed that his only son showed a 
desire to peer into the mysteries of 
smallness, and so far Harry had not 
disappointed him; he had been ec- 
static over the instrument. Together 
they had compared hairs from their 
two heads, had seen the point of a 
fine sewing needle made to look 
like the tip of a crowbar by the 
lowest power of the microscope, 
had made grains of salt look like 
discarded chunks of glass brick, had 
captured a house-fly and marvelled 
at its clawed hairy feet, its great 
red faceted eyes, and the delicate 
veining and fringing of its wings. 

Harry was staring at the bowl of 
pond water in a sort of fascination, 
"Are there germs in the water, 
Dad? Mother says pond water is 
full of germs." 

"I suppose so," answered Mr. 
Chatham, somewhat embarrassed. 
The book on microscopic fresh- 
water fauna had been explicit about 
Paramecium and Euglena, dia- 
tomes and rhizopods, but it had 
failed to mention anything so vul- 
gar as germs. But he supposed that 
which the book called Protozoa, the 
one-celled animalcules, were the 
same as germs. 

He said, "To look at things in 
water like this, you want to use a 
well-slide. It tells how to fix one in 
the instruction book." 

He let Harry find the glass slide 
with a cup ground into it, and an- 
other smooth slip of glass to cover 
it. Then he half-showed, half-told 
him how to scrape gently along the 
bottom sides of the drifting leaves, 
to capture the teeming life that 
dwelt there in the slime. When the 
boy understood, his young hands 



THE ROTIFERS 



85 



were quickly more skillful than his 
father's; they filled the well with a 
few drops of water that was prom- 
isingly green and murky. 

Already Harry knew how to ad- 
just the lighting mirror under the 
stage of the microscope and turn 
th6 focusing screws. He did so, bent 
intently over the eyepiece, squinting 
down the polished barrel in the 
happy expectation of wonders. 

Henry Chatham's eyes wandered 
to the fish bowl, where the whirli- 
gig beetle had come to the top again 
and was describing intricate pat- 
terns among the water plants. He 
looked back to his son, and saw that 
Harry had ceased to turn the screws 
and instead was just looking — ^look- 
ing with a rapt, delicious fixity. 
His hands lay loosely clenched on 
the table top, and he hardly seemed 
to breathe. Only once or twice his 
lips moved as if to shape an ex- 
clamation that was snatched away 
by some new vision. 

"Have you got it, Harry?" asked 
his father after two or three minutes 
during which the boy did not move. 

Harry took a last long look, then 
glanced up, blinking slightly. 

"You look, Dad!" he exclaimed 
warmly. "It's — ^it's like a garden in 
the water, full of funny little peo- 
ple!" 

Mr. Chatham, not reluctantly, 
bent to gaze into the eyepiece. This 
was new to him too, and instantly 
he saw the aptness of Harry's simile. 
There was a garden there, of weird, 
green, transparent stalks composed 
of plainly visible cells fastened end 
to end, with globules and bladders 
like fruits or seed-pods attached to 
them, floating among them; and in 
the garden the strange little people 



swam to and fro, or clung with odd 
appendages to the stalks and 
branches. Their bodies were trans- 
parent like the plants, and in them 
were pulsing hearts and other or- 
gans plainly visible. They looked a 
little like sea horses with pointed 
tails, but their heads were different, 
small and rounded, with big, dark, 
glistening eyes. 

All at once Mr. Chatham real- 
ized that Harry was speaking to 
him, still in high excitement. 

"What are they, Dad?" he 
begged to know. 

His father straightened up and 
shook his head puzzledly. "I don't 
know, Harry," he answered slowly, 
casting about in his memory. He 
seemed to remember a microphoto- 
graph of a creature like those in the 
book he had studied, but the name 
that had gone with it eluded him. 
He had worked as an accountant 
for so many years that his memory 
was all for figures now. 

He bent over once more to im- 
merse his eyes and mind in the 
green water-garden on the slide. 
The little creatures swam to and 
fro as before, growing hazy and 
dwindling or swelling as they swam 
out of the narrow focus of the lens ; 
he gazed at those who paused in 
sharp definition, and saw that, al- 
though he had at first seen no visi- 
ble means of propulsion, each crea- 
ture bore about its head a halo of 
thread-like, flickering cilia that 
lashed the water and drew it for- 
ward, for all the world Hke an air- 
plane propeller or a rapidly turn- 
ing wheel. 

"I know what they are!" ex- 
claimed Henry Chatham, turning 
to his son with an almost boyish ex- 



86 



ROBERT ABERNATHY 



citement. "They're rotifers! That 
means 'wheel-bearers', and they 
were called that because to the first 
scientists who saw them it looked 
like they swam with wheels." 

Harry had got down the book 
and was leafing through the pages. 
He looked up seriously. "Here they 
are," he said. "Here's a picture 
that looks almost like the ones in 
our pond water." 

"Let's see," said his father. They 
looked at the pictures and descrip- 
tions of the Rotifera; there was a 
good deal of concrete information 
on the habits and physiology of 
these odd and complex little ani- 
mals who live their swarming lives 
in the shallow, stagnant waters of 
the Earth. It said that they were 
much more highly organized than 
Protozoa, having a discernible 
heart, brain, digestive system, and 
nervous system, and that their re- 
production was by means of two 
sexes like that of the higher orders. 
Beyond that, they were a mystery; 
their relationship to other life- 
forms remained shrouded in doubt. 

"You've got something interest- 
ing there," said' Henry Chatham 
with satisfaction. "Maybe you'll 
find out something about them that 
nobody knows yet." 

He was pleased when Harry 
spent all the rest of that Sunday 
afternoon peering into the micro- 
scope, watching the rotifers, and 
even more pleased when the boy 
found a pencil and paper and tried, 
in an amateurish way, to draw and 
describe what he saw in the green 
water-garden. 

Bi-yond a doubt, Henry thought, 
h(.'re was a hobby that had captured 
Harry as nothing else ever had. 



MRS. CHATHAM was not so 
pleased. When her husband 
laid down his evening paper and 
went into the kitchen for a drink of 
water, she cornered him and hissed 
at him: "I told you you had no 
business buying Harry a thing like 
that! If he keeps on at this rate, 
he'll wear his eyes out in no time." 

Henry Chatham set down his 
water glass and looked straight at 
his wife. "Sally, Harry's eyes are 
young and he's using them to learn 
with. You've never been much wor- 
ried over me, using my eyes up 
eight hours a day, five days a week, 
over a blind-alley bookkeeping job." 

He left her angrily silent and 
went back to his paper. He would 
lower the paper every now and then 
to watch Harry, in his corner of the 
living-room, bowed obliviously over 
the microscope and the secret life 
of the rotifers. 

Once the boy glanced up from 
his periodic drawing and asked, 
with the air of one who proposes a 
pondered question: "Dad, if you 
look through a microscope the 
wrong way is it a telescope?" 

Mr. Chatham lowered his paper 
and bit his underlip. "I don't think 
so — no, I don't know. When you 
look through a microscope, it 
makes things seem closer — one way, 
that is ; if you looked the other way, 
it would probably make them seem 
farther off. What did you want to 
know for?" 

"Oh — nothing," Harry turned 
back to his work. As if on after- 
thought, he explained, "I was won- 
dering if the rotifers could see me 
when I'm looking at them." 

Mr. Chatham laughed, a little 
nervously, because the strange 



THE ROTIFERS 



87 



fancies which his son sometimes 
voiced upset his ordered mind. Re- 
membering the dark glistening eyes 
of the rotifers he had seen, how- 
ever, he could recognize whence 
this question had stemmed. 

At dusk, Harry insisted on set- 
ting up the substage lamp which 
had been bought with the micro- 
scope, and by whose light he could 
go on looking until his bedtime, 
when his father helped him arrange 
a wick to feed the little glass-cov- 
ered well in the slide so it would 
not dry up before morning. It was 
unwillingly, and only after his 
mother's strenuous complaints, that 
the boy went to bed at ten o'clock. 

In the following days his interest 
became more and more intense. He 
spent long hours, almost without 
moving, watching the rotifers. For 
the little animals had become the 
sole object which he desired to 
study under the microscope, and 
even his father found it difficult to 
understand such an enthusiasm. 

During the long hours at the of- 
fice to which he commuted, Henry 
Chatham often found the vision of 
his son, absorbed with the invisible 
world that the microscope had 
opened to him, coming between 
him and the columns in the ledgers. 
And sometimes, too, he envisioned 
the dim green water-garden where 
the little things swam to and fro, 
and a strangeness filled his thoughts. 

On Wednesday evening, he 
glanced at the fish bowl and no- 
ticed that the water beetle, the 
whirligig beetle, was missing. Cas- 
ually, he asked his son about it. 

"I had to get rid of him," said 
the boy with a trace of uneasiness 
in his manner. "I took him out and 



squashed him." 

"Why did you have to do that?" 

"He was eating the rotifers and 
their eggs," said Harry, with what 
seemd to be a touch of remem- 
bered anger at the beetle. He 
glanced toward his work-table, 
where three or four well-slides with 
small green pools under their glass 
covers now rested in addition to the 
one that was under the microscope. 

"How did you find out he was 
eating them?" inquired Mr. Chat- 
ham, feeling a warmth of pride at 
the thought that Harry had discov- 
ered such a scientific fact for him- 
self. 

The boy hesitated oddly. "I — I 
looked it up in the book," he an- 
swered. 

His father masked his faint dis- 
appointment. "That's fine," he 
said. "I guess you find out more 
about them all the time." 

"Uh-huh," admitted Harry, turn- 
ing back to his table. 

There was undoubtedly some- 
thing a little strange about Harry's 
manner; and now Mr. Chatham 
realized that it had been two days 
since Harry had asked him to 
"Quick, take a look!" at the newest 
wonder he had discovered. With 
this thought teasing at his mind, 
the father walked casually over to 
the table where his son sat hunched 
and, looking down at the litter of 
slides and papers — some of which 
were covered with figures and scrib- 
blings of which he could make noth- 
ing. He said diffidently, "How 
about a look?" 

Harry glanced up as if startled. 
He was silent a moment; then he 
slid reluctantly from his chair and 
said, "All right." 



88 



ROBERT ABERNATHY 



Mr. Chatham sat down and bent 
over the microscope. Puzzled and 
a little hurt, he twirled the focusing 
vernier and peered into the eye- 
piece, looking down once more into 
the green water world of the roti- 
fers. 



THERE WAS a swarm of them 
under the lens, and they swam 
lazily to and fro, their cilia beating 
like miniature propellers. Their 
dark eyes stared, wet and glisten- 
ing; they drifted in the motionless 
water, and clung with sucker-like 
pseudo-feet to the tangled plant 
stems. 

Then, as he almost looked away, 
one of them detached itself from 
the group and swam upward, to- 
ward him, growing larger and blur- 
ring as it rose out of the focus of the 
microscope. The last thing that re- 
mained defined, before it became a 
shapeless gray blob and vanished, 
was the dark blotches of the great 
cold eyes, seeming to stare full at 
him — cold, motionless, but alive. 

It was a curious experience. 
Henry Chatham drew suddenly 
back from the eyepiece, with an in- 
voluntary shudder that he could not 
explain to himself. He said halting- 
ly, "They look interesting." 

"Sure, Dad," said Harry. He 
moved to occupy the chair again, 
and his dark young head bowed 
once more over the microscope. His 
father walked back across the room 
;viid sank gratefully into his arm- 
chair- — after all, it had been a hard 
day at the office. He watched Harry 
work the focusing screws as if try- 
ing to find something, then take his 
prncil ant! begin to write quickly 



and impatiently. 

It was with a guilty feeling of 
prying that, after Harry had been 
sent reluctantly to bed, Henry Chat- 
ham took a tentative look at those 
papers which lay in apparent dis- 
order on his son's work table. He 
frowned uncomprehendingly at the 
things that were written there; it 
was neither mathematics nor lan- 
guage, but many of the scribblings 
were jumbles of letters and figures. 
It looked like code, and he remem- 
bered that less than a year ago, 
Harry had been passionately inter- 
ested in cryptography, and had 
shown what his father, at least, be- 
lieved to be a considerable aptitude 
for such things. . . But what did 
cryptography have to do with 
microscopy, or codes with — rotifers? 

Nowhere did there seem to be a 
key, but there were occasional 
words and phrases jotted into the 
margins of some of the sheets. lllr. 
Chatham read these, and learned 
nothing. "Can't dry up, but they 
can," said one. "Beds of germs," 
said another. And in the corner of 
one sheet, "1— Yes. 2— No." The 
only thing that looked like a trans- 
lation was the note: "rty34pr is the 
pond." 

Mr. Chatham shook his head be- 
wilderedly, replacing the sheets 
carefully as they had been. Why 
should Harry want to keep notes on 
his scientific hobby in code? he 
wondered, rationalizing even as he 
wondered. He went to bed still 
puzzling, but it did not keep him 
from sleeping, for he was tired. 

Then, only the next evening, his 
wife maneuvered to get him alone 
with her and burst out passionate- 
ly: 



THE ROTIFERS 



89 



"Henry, I told you that micro- 
scope was going to ruin Harry's 
eyesight ! I was watching him today 
when he didn't know I was watch- 
ing him, and I saw him winking 
and blinking right while he kept on 
looking into the thing. I was 
minded to stop him then and there, . 
but I want you to assert your au- 
thority with him and tell him he 
can't go on." 

Henry Chatham passed one nerv- 
ous hand over his own aching eyes. 
He asked mildly, "Are you sure it 
wasn't just your imagination, Sally? 
After all, a person blinks quite nor- 
mally, you know." 

"It was not my imagination!" 
snapped Mrs. Chatham. "I know 
the symptoms of eyestrain when I 
see them, I guess. You'll have to 
stop Harry using that thing so 
much, or else be prepared to buy 
him glasses." 

"All right, Sally," said Mr. Chat- 
ham wearily. "I'll see if I can't per- 
suade him to be a little more mod- 
erate." 

He went slowly into the living- 
room. At the moment, Harry was 
not using the microscope; instead, 
he seemed to be studying one of his 
cryptic pages of notes. As his father 
entered, he looked up sharply and 
swiftly laid the sheet down — face 
down. 

Perhaps it wasn't all Sally's imag- 
ination; the boy did look nervous, 
and there was a drawn, white look 
to his thin young face. His father 
said gently, "Harry, Mother tells 
me she saw you blinking, as if your 
eyes were tired, when you were 
looking into the microscope today. 
You know if you look too much, it 
can be a strain on your sight." 



Harry nodded quickly, too quick- 
ly, perhaps. "Yes, Dad," he said. "I 
read that in the book. It says there 
that if you close the eye you're look- 
ing with for a little while, it rests 
you and your eyes don't get tired. 
So I was practising that this after- 
noon. Mother must have been 
watching me then, and got the 
wrong idea." 

"dh," said Henry Chatham. 
"Well, it's good that you're trying 
to be careful. But you've got your 
mother worried, and that's not so 
good. I wish, myself, that you 
wouldn't spend all your time with 
the microscope. Don't you ever 
play baseball with the fellows any 
more?" 

"I haven't got time," said the 
boy, with a curious stubborn twist 
to his mouth. "I can't right now. 
Dad." He glanced toward the 
microscope. 

"Your rotifers won't die if you 
leave them alone for a while. And 
if they do, there'll always be a new 
crop." 

"But I'd lose track of them," said 
Harry strangely. "Their lives are so 
short — they live so awfully fast. You 
don't know how fast they live." 

"I've seen them," answered his 
father. "I guess they're fast, all 
right." He did not know quite what 
to make of it all, so he settled him- 
self in his chair with his paper. 

But that night, after Harry had 
gone later than usual to bed, he 
stirred himself to take down the 
book that dealt with life in pond- 
water. There was a memory prick- 
ing at his mind; the memory of the 
water beetle, which Harry had 
killed because, he said, he was eat- 
ing the rotifers and their eggs. And 



90 



ROBERT ABERNATHY 



the boy had said he had found that 
fact in the book. 

Mr. Chatham turned through the 
book; he read, with aching eyes, all 
that it said about rotifers. He 
searched for information on the 
beetle, and found there was a whole 
family of whirligig beetles. There 
was some material here on the char- 
acteristics and habits of the Gyrini- 
dae, but nowhere did it mention the 
devouring of rotifers or their eggs 
among their customs. 

He tried the topical index, but 
there was no help there. 

Harry must have lied, thought his 
father with a whirling head. But 
why, why in God's name should he 
say he'd looked a thing up in the 
book when he must have found it 
out for himself, the hard way? 
There was no sense in it. He went 
back to the book, convinced that, 
sleepy as he was, he must have 
missed a point. The information 
simply wasii't there. 

He got to his feet and crossed the 
room to Harry's work table; he 
switched on the light over it and 
stood looking down at the pages of 
mystic notations. There were more 
pages now, quite a few. But none 
of them seemed to mean anything. 
The earlier pictures of rotifers 
which Harry had drawn had given 
way entirely to mysterious figures. 

Then the simple explanation oc- 
ciured to him, and he switched off 
the light with a deep feeling of re- 
lief. Harry hadn't really known 
that the water beetle ate rotifers; 
he had just suspected it. And, with 
his boy's respect for fair play, he 
had hesitated to admit that he had 
executed the beetle merely on sus- 
picion. 



That didn't take the lie away, but 
it removed the mystery at least. 



HENRY CHATHAM slept bad- 
ly that night and dreamed dis- 
torted dreams. But when the alarm 
clock shrilled in the gray of morn- 
ing, jarring him awake, the dream 
in which he had been immersed 
skittered away to the back of his 
mind, out of knowing, and sat there 
leering at him with strange, dark, 
glistening eyes. 

He dressed, washed the flat 
morning taste out of his mouth with 
coffee, and took his way to his train 
and the ten-minute ride into the 
city. On the way there, instead of 
snatching a look at the morning pa- 
per, he sat still in his seat, head 
bowed, trying to recapture the 
dream whose vanishing made him 
uneasy. He was superstitious about 
dreams in an up-to-date way, be- 
lieving them not warnings from 
some Beyond outside himself, but 
from a subsconscious mOre knowing 
than the waking conscious mind. 

During the morning his work 
went slowly, for he kef t pausing, 
sometimes in the midst of totalling 
a column of figures, to grasp at 
some mocking half -memory of that 
dream. At last, elbows on his desk, 
staring unseeingly at the clock on 
the wall, in the midst of the sub- 
dued murmur of the office, his mind 
went back to Harry, dark head 
bowed motionless over the barrel of 
his microscope, looking, always 
looking into the pale green water- 
gardens and the unseen lives of the 
beings that • . . 

All at once it came to him, the 
dream he had dreamed, He had 



THE ROTIFERS 



91 



been bending over the microscope, 
he had been looking into the un- 
seen world, and the horror of what 
he had seen gripped him now and 
brought out the chill sweat on his 
body. 

For he had seen his son there in 
the clouded water, among the 
twisted glassy plants, his face turned 
upward and eyes wide in the agon- 
ized appeal of the drowning; and 
bubbles rising, fading. But afound 
him had been a swarm of the weird 
creatures, and they had been drag- 
ging him down, down, blurring out 
of focus, and their great dark eyes 
glistening wetly, coldly. . . 

He was sitting rigid at his desk, 
his work forgotten; all at once he 
saw the clock and noticed with a 
start that it was already eleven a.m. 
A fear he could not define seized on 
him, and his hand reached spas- 
modically for the telephone on his 
desk. 

But before he touched it, it be- 
gan ringing. 

After a moment's paralysis, he 
picked up the receiver. It was his 
wife's voice that came shrilly over 
the wires. 

"Henry!" she cried, "Is that 
you?" 

"Hello, Sally," he said with stiff 
lips. Her voice as she answered 
seemed to come nearer and go far- 
ther away, and he realized that his 
hand holding the instrument was 
shaking. 

"Henry, you've got to come home 
right now. Harry's sick. He's got a 
high fever, and he's been asking for 
you." 

He moistened his lips and said, 
"I'll be right home. I'll take a taxi." 

"Hurry!" she exclaimed. "He's 



been saying queer things. I think 
he's delirious." She paused, and 
added, "And it's all the fault of that 
microscope you bought him!" 

"I'll be right home," he repeated 
dully. 



TTIS WIFE was not at the door 
-■--'- to meet him ; she must be up- 
stairs, in Harry's bedroom. He 
paused in the living room and 
glanced toward the table that bore 
the microscope; the black, gleam- 
ing thing still stood there, but he 
did not see any of the slides, and 
the papers were piled neatly to- 
gether to one side. His eyes fell on 
the fish bowl; it was empty, clean 
and shining. He knew Harry hadn't 
done those things; that was Sally's 
neatness. 

Abruptly, instead of going 
straight up the stairs, he moved to 
the table and looked down at the 
pile of papers. The one on top was 
almost blank ; on it was written sev- 
eral times: rty34pr . . . rty34pr. . . 
His memory for figure combinations 
served him; he remembered what 
had been written on another page : 
"rty34pr is the pond." 

That made him think of the 
pond, lying quiescent under its 
green scum and trailing plants at 
the end of the garden. A step on the 
stair jerked him around. 

It was his wife, of course. She 
said in a voice sharp-edged with ap- 
prehension: "What are you doing 
down here? Harry wants you. The 
doctor hasn't come; I phoned him 
just before I called you, but he 
hasn't come." 

He did not answer. Instead he 
gestured at the pile of papers, the 



92 



ROBERT ABERNATHY 



empty fish bowl, an imperative 
question in his face. 

"I threw that dirty water back in 
the pond. It's probably what he 
caught something from. And he 
was breaking himself down, hump- 
ing over that thing. It's your fault, 
for getting it for him. Are you com- 
ing?" She glared coldly at him, 
turning back to the stairway. 

"I'm coming," he said heavily, 
and followed her upstairs. 

Harry lay back in his bed, a low 
mound under the covers. His head 
was propped against a single pillow, 
and his eyes were half-closed, the 
lids swollen-looking, his face hotly 
flushed. He was breathing slowly as 
if asleep. 

But as his father entered the 
room, he opened his eyes as if with 
an effort, fixed them on him, said, 
"Dad . . . I've got to tell you." 

Mr. Chatham took the chair by 
the bedside, quietly, leaving his wife 
to stand. He asked, "About what, 
Harry?" 

"About — things." The boy's eyes 
shifted to his mother, at the foot of 
his bed. "I don't want to talk to 
her. She thinks it's just fever. But 
you'll understand." 

Henry Chatham lifted his gaze to 
meet his wife's. "Maybe you'd bet- 
ter go downstairs and wait for the 
doctor, Sally." 

She looked hard at him, then 
turned abruptly to go out. "All 
right," she said in a thin voice, and 
closed the door softly behind her. 

"Now what did you want to tell 
me, Harry?" 

"About them ... the rotifers," 
the boy said. His eyes had drifted 
half-shut again but his voice was 
clear. "They did it to me . . . on 



purpose. 

"Did what?" 

"I don't know. . . They used one 
of their cultures. They've got all 
kinds: beds of germs, under the 
leaves in the water. They've been 
growing new kinds, that will be 
worse than anything that ever was 
before. . . They live so fast, they 
work so fast." 

Henr/ Chatham was silent, lean- 
ing forward beside the bed. 

"It was only a little while, before 
I found out they knew about me. I 
could see them through my micro- 
scope, but they could see me too. . . 
And they kept signaling, swimming 
and turning. . . I won't tell you how 
to talk to them, because nobody 
ought to talk to them ever again. 
Because they find out more than 
they tell. . . They know about us, 
now, and they hate us. They never 
knew before — that there was any- 
body but them. , . So they want to 
kill us all." 

"But why should they want to do 
that?" asked the father, as gently as 
he could. He kept telling himself, 
"He's delirious. It's like Sally says, 
he's been wearing himself out, 
thinking too much about — the roti- 
fers. But the doctor will be here 
pretty soon, the doctor will know 
what to do." 

"They don't like knowing that 
they aren't the only ones on Earth 
that can think. I expect people 
would be the same way." 

"But they're such little things, 
Harry. They can't hurt us at all." 

The boy's eyes opened wide, 
shadowed with terror and fever. "I 
told you. Dad — They're growing 
germs, millions and billions of them, 
new ones. . . And they kept telling 



THE ROTIFERS 



93 



me to take them back to the pond, 
so they could tell all the rest, and 
they could all start getting ready — 
for war." 

He remembered the shapes that 
swam and crept in the green water 
gardens, with whirling cilia and 
great, cold, glistening eyes. And he 
remembered the clean, empty fish 
bowl in the window downstairs. 

"Don't let them, Dad," said 
Harry convulsively. "You've got to 
kill them all. The ones here and the 
ones in the pond. You've got to kill 
them good — because they don't 
mind being killed, and they lay lots 
of eggs, and their eggs can stand al- 
most anything, even drying up. And 
the eggs remember what the old 
ones knew." 

"Don't worry," said Henry Chat- 
ham quickly. He grasped his son's 
hand, a hot limp hand that had 
slipped from under the coverlet. 
"We'll stop them. We'll drain the 
pond." 

"That's swell," whispered the 
boy, his energy fading again. "I 
ought to have told you before. Dad 
— ^but first I was afraid you'd laugh, 
and then — I was just . . . afraid . . ." 

His voice drifted away. And his 
father, looking down at the flushed 
face, saw that he seemed asleep. 
Well, that was better than the sick 
delirium — ^saying such strange, wild 
things — 

Downstairs the doctor was saying 
harshly, "All right. All right. But 
let's have a look at the patient." 

Henry Chatham came quietly 
downstairs; he greeted the doctor 



briefly, and did not follow him to 
Harry's bedroom. 

When he was left alone in the 
room, he went to the window and 
stood looking down at the micro- 
scope. He could not rid his head of 
strangeness: A window between 
two worlds, our world and that of 
the infinitely small, a window that 
looks both ways. 

After a time, he went through the 
kitchen and let himself out the back 
door, into the noonday sunlight. 

He followed the garden path, be- 
tween the weed-grown beds of vege- 
tables, until he came to the edge of 
the little pond. It lay there quiet in 
the sunlight, green-scummed and 
walled with stiff rank grass, a lone 
dragonfly swooping and wheeling 
above it. The image of all the stag- 
nant waters, the fertile breeding- 
places of strange life, with which it 
was joined in the end by the tortu- 
ous hidden channels, the oozing 
pores of the Earth. 

And it seemed to him then that 
he glimpsed something, a hitherto 
unseen miasma, rising above the 
pool and darkening the sunlight 
ever so little. A dream, a shadow — 
the shadow of the alien dream of 
things hidden in smallness, the dark 
dream of the rotifers. 

The dragonfly, having seized a 
bright-winged fly that was sporting 
over the pond, descended heavily 
through the sunlit air and came to 
rest on a broad lily pad. Henry 
Chatham was suddenly afraid. He 
turned and walked slowly, wearily, 
up the path toward the house. 



■ THE END - 



Personalities in Science 



GALILEO 

The Persecuted 

NEWTON'S apple is always given 
a starring role whenever the 
story of the discovery of the law of 
gravity is told; yet there is another 
object which deserves a place in the 
annals of history that is equal to 
that now famous apple. There's a 
splendid bronze lamp which hangs 
today, as it did in the 16th century, 
from the roof of the cathedral in 
Pisa. The slightest motion will make 
this lamp sway. This object was to 
Galileo what the apple was to New- 
ton. Putting the index finger of one 
hand on the wrist of the other and, 
using this natural clock, Galileo 
found that always, whether the 
lamp was describing large arcs or 
small ones, each swing or vibration 
took exactly the same time as any 
other. This seemingly simple discov- 
ery was the cornerstone of the sci- 
ence of motion. It was the humble 
beginning which served as the in- 
spiration for such men as John 
Keppler, who gave us the laws of 
planetary motion, and for Newton's 
laws of gravity and motion. 

Somehow, in the minds of most 
of us, Galileo Galilie has come 
down through the centuries vague- 



ly connected with a telescope. But 
he was a man of diversified talents 
almost equal to those of the great 
Leonardo da Vinci. His family had 
been distinguished, but poverty had 
overtaken his parents; and like un- 
told thousands of such parents they 
wanted their son to have a good, 
solid education as a doctor in order 
to insure his future. The one big 
worry that they had was that this 
son of theirs, vi'ho showed such 
great mechanical aptitude at an 
early age, would become interested 
in mathematics and so be drawn 
away from the security of the career 
they had chosen for him. The fear 
was obviously a well-founded one. 

Besides his skill in mechanics, 
Galileo was far above average in 
such arts as sculpture and music. 
He painted with such skill and 
imagination that he defied his par- 
ents, as so many of us do, and chose 
an artist's career for himself. When 
he entered the University of Padua 
to begin his studies, he realized that 
in order to be a really good artist he 
would have to study geometry. Now 
a whole new field was opened be- 
fore him. 

He was able to solve the most dif- 
ficult problems with ease, and he 
delighted in simplifying the solu- 
tions of others which had stood as 



9-4 



PERSONALITIES IN SCIENCE 



95 



examples of greatness for hundreds 
of years. Naturally there was no 
more talk about being either a doc- 
tor or an artist; he had found the 
mistress who was to hold him until 
the end of his days. 

Galileo found his work bound by 
laws and systems which had stood 
as irrefutable evidences of truth for 
almost two thousand years. When 
he rebelled against accepting these 
laws as gospel, he proved his con- 
tentions with experiments and facts 
so salient that he could scarcely be 
doubted. He climbed to the top of 
the leaning tower of Pisa to refute 
Aristotle. He invented a telescope 
to refute Ptolemv. 



ARISTOTLE had taught that 
v/hen two bodies, of the same 
substance but differing weights, 
were dropped from an equal height, 
the heavier body would reach the 
earth first. Believe it or not, no one 
had questioned this statement for 
1,900 years! When Galileo had sat- 
isfied himself that the theory was all 
wrong he set out to prove his point. 
He used the now famous Leaning 
Tower as a proving ground. He 
dropped two shots of different 
weights from the top of the tower, 
and when they reached the ground 
at the same time he felt that he had 
definitely been vindicated. But all 
this step toward the real truth 
earned him was enmity. From all 
over the then civilized world pro- 
fessors and students rose in a body 
against him. Aristotle had said that 
the objects would not reach the 
earth at the same time — it said so 
right in his books. Progress such as 
this was too fast for the times and 



Galileo was hounded from the scene 
of his victory and forced to seek 
refuge in Florence. 

Now his lot was miserable. He 
had his Mother, a brother, and two 
sisters depending on him for sup- 
port; and for a radical such as he 
was there wasn't much of anything 
like money coming his way. He 
tutored pupils to help stretch his 
meager earnings, and as he taught 
them he continued to learn himself. 
He had never disputed Ptolemy's 
laws — those that stated that the 
vaults of heaven revolved about the 
Earth — because he'd believed it 
himself. But now he began to be- 
lieve that Copernicus had been 
right. Although he knew that to 
teach these theories was dangerous 
heresy, he began to teach that 
the Earth revolved about the sun, 
as did all the other known planets 
of the time. To prove his theory he 
invented a far better telescope than 
had ever before been made. 

With this new telescope he saw 
for the first time that the moon was 
not round and flat and smooth as 
both Aristotle and Ptolemy had 
said; but that it had mountains and 
hollows like the Earth. He was the 
first to see the rings of Saturn, and 
found that there were lesser planets 
revolving around Jupiter just as 
other planets revolve around the 
sun. He proposed the theory of an 
unlimited universe, too, and one 
noble critic tried to crush him by 
saying : "There are only seven open- 
ings in the head — two ears, two 
eyes, two nostrils, and one mouth, 
there are only seven metals, and 
only seven days of the week, there- 
fore there can be only seven plan- 
ets." When Galileo made the un- 



96 



GALILEO 



believers look through the telescope, 
and the scoffers saw exactly what 
he had told them they would see in 
the heavens, they cried, "Oh, well, 
they aren't visible to the naked eye, 
and so they cannot influence the 
Earth; and being useless, they do 
not exist." 

When our stargazer went on to 
announce that not only did the 
Earth revolve around the sun, but 
that the sun also revolved; the 
Church stepped in. An investigating 
commission was established to study 
the teachings of Copernicus. They 
called in Galileo and warned him 
that this was pure heresy which he 
was teaching; they ordered him to 
return to the teaching of Ptolemy's 
nine-hundred year old theory that 
the vaults of heaven revolved 
around the Earth. If he refused he 
was warned that he would have to 
take the consequences; which in 
those days consisted of burning at 
the stake, or being crushed to death 
in an iron maiden. 



GALILEO managed to avoid 
these Consequences for the next 
16 years, which he spent in study 
and in strengthening his theories 
even more. In 1627 he could no 
longer contain himself under this 



thought control and wrote a book 
defending Copernicus. The inquisi- 
tion pounced, and for his disobedi- 
ence he was made to wear sack- 
cloth and to kneel in ashes and re- 
quired to swear that he would never 
say or believe again that the Earth 
revolved around the sun. He was 
told that should be refuse to swear 
this oath he would be condemned 
to torture and burning. The inquisi- 
tion won, fear of torture drove 
Galileo to vow that he would do 
that which they required of him. 
He was carted off to prison, and 
though later released he spent the 
rest of his days with spies watching 
him to keep him on the path that 
the Church had said he must fol- 
low. 

He died at 78, blind so that he 
could no longer see the wonders of 
the skies, and thoroughly crushed. 
But not before he had given the 
world a heritage of knowledge that 
man after man used as a foundation 
for the progress of the natural sci- 
ences. Galileo was so far ahead of 
his time that he had put forth the 
theory that there were no elements 
in the universe that differed from 
those on the Earth. The final estab- 
lishment of this proof was made by 
Dr. Ira Bowen as recently as 1937! 

— ew 



- THE END - 



The BLACK TIDE 



Space in its far dark reaches can be fickle 
with a man; it can shatter his dreams, fill 
him with fear and hate. It can also cure a 
man — ij he is strong enough. 



By Arthur G. Stangland 

Illustrated by Ed Voligursky 



IT FILLED all the ebony depths 
of space. Twirling slowly in awe- 
some majesty, the meteor scintil- 
lated like a massive black diamond. 
And with its onrush came a devas- 
tating sense of doom. He looked 
everywhere. To the front, to the 
side, and below — there was no es- 
cape. Transfixed, he stared at the 
great rock flashing in the fire, of 
myriad suns as it — 

Bill Staker, passenger rocket cap- 
tain for Interplanetary Lines, came 
fully awake in his New York hotel 
room. For a minute, he lay unmov- 
ing on his bed, savoring the deli- 
cious sensation of weight. No 
queazy stirring in the pit of his 
belly for lack of gravity, no forced 
squinting because of muscular re- 
orientation. 

With a muttered curse he un- 
wound himself from his covers and 
sat up. For a moment he rested his 



head in his hands, thinking, only a 
nightmare, thank God, only a 
nightmare. 

He lifted his head, and found 
cold sweat on his hands. Then 
sighing in relief he swung his feet 
over the edge of his bed. 

A glance at the clock showed 
10:45 p.m. Monday, June 10th, 
2039. Heavily, he clumped across 
the room in the peculiar flat-footed 
gait of a spaceman accustomed to 
magnetic contact shoes. Cigarette 
in hand he sank into a heavy chair, 
touched a button on the arm, then 
sat back to watch the telescreen. 

It was a rehash of the day's news. 
In nasal tones a senator was accus- 
ing the Republicrats of raising 
taxes. Then followed scenes from a 
spectacular fire. Suddenly, Bill's 
drooping eyelids popped open. 

A commentator was saying, 
". . . the two rockets of the Staker 



97 



The small meteor ripped through 
the Space Bird's crew compart- 
ment, blinding the radar scope 
and severing communication with 
Earth. 




THE BLACK TIDE 



99 



Space Mining Company, ready for 
a scouting trip to the asteroid Beta 
Quadrant." 

A close-up of Tom Staker fol- 
lowed. Tall, rangy, with blond hair 
like straw in the wind. Bill laid his 
cigarette in a tray and with critical 
interest leaned forward to look at 
his brother. 

"We figure to find uranium," 
Tom was saying, with a glance to- 
ward the vertical rockets, "all 
through the Beta Quadrant. Our 
departure is waiting on the return 
of my brother, Bill, from his Mars- 
to-Earth run." 

A reporter asked Tom, "Private 
enterprise is unique in these days 
of virtual monopolies. What's the 
story behind it?" 

"Well, our great-grandfather, 
George Staker, believed passionate- 
ly in private enterprise," Tom be- 
gan. "Somewhere around 1952 or 
1953 he established a trust fund for 
his third generation descendants to 
finance any project they think 
worthwhile. And he got an ironclad 
guarantee from the government 
diat the trust fund for private en- 
terprise would be honored in the 
future. You see, my ancestor was 
quite a romanticist. In one of his 
books entitled 'The Philosophy of 
Science' he says 'People of this 
dawning Atomic Age little realize 
they are living in a vast dream. A 
dream that is slowly taking objec- 
tive shape. A tool here, a part there, 
a plan on some drafting table. Men 
of ideas are pointing the way, struc- 
turing the inner dream world of a 
generation. Even today's science 
fiction literature contains important 
ideas for the dreams-become-reality 
of tomorrow.' " Tom finished up. 



"With our Project Venture, Bill 
and I are going to bring a dream 
into reality — making a little on the 
side, of course!" 

The commentator ended his in- 
terview with: "And so, we await 
with great interest the carrying out 
of George Staker' s dream, a man 
whose Twentieth Century ideas of 
private enterprise have blown a 
breath of fresh air into an age of 
dull dreams and little imagina- 
tion." 

Bill Staker pressed the control 
button, darkening the screen. 
"Dream boy, Tom, you damned 
fool." He got up and scuffed into 
the bathroom to stare into the mir- 
ror. Twenty-five years old, and al- 
ready lines were grooving both sides 
of his nostrils. Tousled black hair 
like brush hanging over a high 
bank, and ridged creases in his fore- 
head. Little lumps of flesh bulging 
over the corners of his mouth from 
constant tension. The tension of 
outwitting space on each trip 
'tween the planets. But worst of all 
was the look in his gray eyes. The 
look that never went away any- 
more. The look of a man who has 
spent too much time staring into 
the enigma of the Universe and — 
thinking. 

"I'm scared — scared as hell!" he 
blurted at his reflection. "And if I 
don't get hold of myself, I'm 
through — washed up!" 

Space was no place for a man 
with imagination — too much im- 
agination. You stared into the 
empty blackness here, you stared 
into the inky blackness there, be- 
hind you the Earth a tiny pinpoint, 
the Earth that meant rock solid 
footing, the caress of wind and land 



100 



ARTHUR G. STANGLAND 



in all directions. But out there in 
I he aching void you raced for Mars 
like a mouse scuttling across a 
lighted floor. Raced because of 
what you couldn't see, couldn't 
fathom. Yet, you knew It was out 
there, staring back inscrutably. 

He rubbed the flat of his hand 
across his right cheek, sighing from 
emotional weariness. Then he 
scuffed back into the room. On the 
way he collected a bottle of bour- 
bon, mixer and glass, and dropped 
into the big chair. 

As he worked on the bottle, all 
the anxiety and apprehension in 
him faded. Once he stared at the 
bottom of his empty glass. Funny 
how a guy could panic all of a sud- 
den. He remembered it clearly now. 
Riding into town yesterday from 
the rocket port, he started brooding 
over details of Project Venture. 
Suddenly, an overwhelming black 
tide of fear worse than he had ever 
experienced confronted him. Like 
a man on the verge of insanity he 
licked his dry lips, staring about 
him and feeling as if something 
strange and terrible were taking 
possession of his mind. And in the 
middle of his spell a cloud blacker 
than space itself started reaching 
for him. That was when he yelled 
to the startled bus driver to let him 
out at this hotel. Maybe he could 
t;("t hold of himself here. 

Now, his arms sprawled over the 
sides of the heavy chair, he drifted 
off into a snoring stupor. 



IN rilK morning he awoke to a 
splitting headache. Somehow it 
helped to hold his head between 
both hands and swear at it in a run- 



ning mutter. Finally he roused him- 
self to go to the bathroom for a cold 
shower. Afterward, donning his 
powder blue Captain's uniform, he 
went down to breakfast. 

He dawdled over crisp bacon and 
eggs, glanced at morning editions, 
and all the while the ashes of last 
night's emotional holocaust drifted 
through him. Drifted in fitful va- 
grant thoughts. He should have 
said no that first day a year ago. 
The big law firm made a great to 
do over the old document from his 
ancestor. Unique, they said. The 
chance of a lifetime. And by the 
end of the first meeting Tom was 
all fired up. Mining atomic power 
metals in the asteroid belt would 
bring the biggest returns, he said. 
They would be the only ones al- 
lowed to compete with the Asteroid 
Mining Corporation monopoly. 
And now Tom was building up 
public excitement in the venture, as 
if it were a circus. The damned 
fool. Why had he let his brother 
talk him into— 

Suddenly, his line of thought 
snapped, and he was acutely aware 
of staring eyes. 

He looked to his left, then felt a 
warm flush technicolor his cheeks. 

"Christy!" 

Her blond curls making a soft 
halo around her jauntily redced hat, 
the space hostess from his ship gave 
him a warm smile. She was ade- 
quately stacked. Bill reflected, but 
there was levelheaded firmness and 
resolution in her too. That was why 
she was hard to handle. 

"Good morning, Bill." 

He didn't like the accusing gleam 
in her eye but he was glad to see 
her. 



THE BLACK TIDE 



101 



"Sit down, Christy. Have some 
coffee." He held her hands a mo- 
ment, then eased her into the op- 
posite chair. 

He tried disarming her with a 
show of great enthusiasm. But the 
way she settled herself into the seat, 
all the while regarding him with 
those clear penetrating blue eyes, 
told him she was going on no snipe 
hunt. 

"When you kissed me goodby at 
the port yesterday, Bill, you said 
you were going directly to the field 
to be with Tom." It wasn't a state- 
ment — ^it was an accusation. 

With an elaborate show of cas- 
ualness he shrugged his shoulders. 
"Well, 1 was fagged out from this 
last trip. Decided I'd do better get- 
ting a full night's rest by myself at 
a hotel." 

The waiter brought her coffee, 
and she left it to cool. She folded 
her long tapering fingers on the 
table, and a delicate lift to her fine 
brows gave her an expression of 
sympathetic concern. 

Her smile was regretful. "Rocket 
men don't drink. Bill. You know it 
too. Bad for muscular coordina- 
tion." 

He said in some surprise, "You 
mean it's that loud?" 

"Uh-huh." Christv leaned for- 
ward. "What is it, Bill? You 
haven't been yourself for weeks. 
You looked haggard yesterday and 
when you left the ship you were al- 
most running, as if trying to escape 
from something. And now this 
strange avoidance of Tom. He got 
hold of me this morning early, 
wanting to know where you were. 
And I guess it's pretty important 
that he sees you, Bill. Seems there's 



been trouble at the field." 

It was as if someone had prodded 
him in an agonizingly sore place 
and he reacted instinctively. He let 
his knife clatter on his plate, aware 
that he was dramatizing himself. 

"When I'm rcndy for a woman's 
sticking her nosi- into my affairs, 
I'll send her a '^pc-cial invitation!" 

Christy's delicate nostrils flared. 
and her bosom rose and fell rapid- 
ly. Then she seemed to get hold of 
herself. "I'm sorry if you got that 
imprcs.sion, Bill, I was only trying 
to help you both." 

I. Iierishiiig his irritation, Bill 
went on, "Seems to me you're bend- 
ing over backward helping Tom. 
playing messenger, private eye — " 

Christy broke in with a catch in 
her throat, "Oh, Bill, please! Let's 
not quarrel as soon as we get back." 

Bill shoved his dishes aside, the 
tone of her voice reaching into him 
to dampen down the fires of anger. 
Then he managed a slow faint grin, 

"Okay, Christy," He reached for 
the check, saying, "Well, if you can 
stand my company, would you like 
to come along out to the field?" 

With her eyes glistening, she an- 
swered, "I'd love to," 



THE PRIVATE rocket landing 
field of the Staker Space Mining 
Company was an hour's drive north 
of the city. Three miles from the 
field they made out the two gleam- 
ing snouts of the rockets pointing 
skyward. Then as they approached 
the edge of the field. Bill turned off 
toward a two story frame structure 
that served as ofBce and warehouse, 
Bill said, "Might as well check 
to see if Tom is in the office first." 



102 



ARTHUR G. STANGLAND 



At the door Bill poked his head 
in and shouted up the stairwell, 
"Hi— Tom?" 

A chair scraped, and footsteps 
sounded across the upstairs floor. 
"Yeah— that you. Bill? C'mon up!" 

They found Tom at a desk before 
a wide window view of the field. 
On the office walls hung big graphs 
of fuel consumption curves, trajec- 
tory plots from Earth to the aster- 
oid belt, ballistics computations, 
oxygen consumption curves per 
unit metabolism per man. 
' Christy looking at the rockets, 
said, "Gee, Tom, they look beauti- 
ful. Like monsters straining their 
tethers." 

Tom looked up at the girl's pro- 
file, and to Bill who was watching, 
he bore the look of a man savoring 
what he saw. 

"Yes, they are. That first one's 
mine, the Space Bird. The other is 
Bill's, the Space Dragon." 

Bill cast a professional eye over 
the charts and graphs on the wall, 
while far down in his subconscious 
a sharp twinge of jealousy ful- 
minated, tangling with his fears of 
space in a hybrid monstrosity. Then 
like lava in a plugged volcano his 
obsession found a new outlet. The 
fear of space now came up dis- 
guised as hatred for Tom. 

In an unusually calm voice Bill 
said, "Well, I see you have every- 
thing just about completed." 

"Yeah," Tom glanced up with a 
significant look. "Someone else was 
interested in those charts and 
graphs too the other day. Someone 
who didn't bother to use the door." 

"What d'you mean — somebody 
break in?" 

Tom nodded. "Yep. Jimmied a 



window downstairs. But I don't 
think they got anything, because the 
door to the office was still locked 
when the watchman surprised 
them. They got away in the dark." 

Christy's eyes grew large and 
round. "Who do you suppose it 
was?" 

Hitching his long body erect, 
Tom said with a gesture of his right 
hand, "Well, there's only one out- 
fit interested in oiir destination — 
and that's Asteroid Mining." 

"Good heavens," Christy said in 
great surprise. "You don't mean a 
big corporation Uke that would 
stoop so low?" 

Tom smiled at her. "With a mo- 
nopoly on power metals Asteroid 
has been gouging the world. People 
have become resigned to the situa- 
tion. But if we can supply uranium 
ore cheaper there's going to be a 
clamor for private enterprise again. 
Under the present system private 
enterprise has been withering on 
the vine. This is our big chance 
and the public is pulling for us." 

Bill's hold on his temper slippied 
another notch. "Yeah, I saw that 
interview with the television news 
you had. Saw it last night." He 
folded his arms across his chest. "If 
that's your conception of winning 
support for our venture then you 
better take up circus advertising." 

For a moment Tom looked like 
a man who's taken a bucket of ice 
water in the face. Then his feet hit 
the floor. "Say, now, wait a min- 
ute. Bill!" he said, half in anger. 
"Who d'you think's been shoulder- 
ing the big share of Project Ven- 
ture — while you've hung on to your 
job and a pretty salary?" 

"Didn't we agree you'd spend 



THE BLACK TIDE 



103 



full time on the Project while I 
acted as consultant between trips?" 
Bill shot back. 

"Yeah, I quit a fair job as first 
officer on a freighter to handle it." 

"And you are guaranteed fair 
wages and a fat slice of any profits 
we make," Bill snapped. "The 
thing I didn't like in that interview 
of yours was that starry-eyed eye- 
wash about our ancestor being a 
man of vision, a philosopher and a 
dreamer. That's a helluva tag to 
put on us — 'The Dream Boys'! 
Good God!" 

Tom stood up, facing his brother 
in icy silence. Finally he said, "Is 
that all you've got to offer — a lotta 
carping criticism?" 

The planes of Bill's cheeks flat- 
tened under the downward pull at 
his mouth corners. The black ugly 
tide was running in him now and 
he could not stop its sweep. His fear 
of space, the frantic will to escape 
from it again, all the irritation and 
anger were deep currents and he 
was a mere piece of flotsam tossing 
on the advancing wave of the black 
tide. 

He said, "No, damn you. I've got 
something else in my craw too. It's 
Christy. I've seen the way you look 
at her, and I know that whenever 
my back is turned you're doing your 
damnedest to break us up!" 

Tom's face turned gray and sud- 
denly his eyes were wide open. 
Knots stood out on the points of his 
jaws. 

In a strange half choked voice he 
said, "That's a blasted lie — and you 
know it. It's an excuse to cover up 
for your own peculiar behavior 
lately. I think — " 

Christy broke in with. "Bill — 



Tom, for heaven's sake stop it!" 
Her beseeching eyes were glancing 
sharply from one to the other in 
growing panic. 

Bill stood lightly on his feet, his 
fingers curling and uncurling into 
balled fists. 

Tom went on, a bleak look in his 
eyes. "I think you've been in a soft 
berth too long. The monopoly you 
work for has softened you, taken 
out the guts a man needs to stand 
on his own feet — " 

Bill suddenly stiffened. His right 
shot out in a hard, sharp blow 
that crashed against Tom's chin. 
Tom grunted, a surprised look in 
his eyes, and sagged to the floor. 

For a moment Bill stood over 
him, nostrils flaring, his whole body 
tense and waiting. But Tom was 
too groggy to get up. 

"Oh, Bill, how could you!" 
Christy cried out, dropping to her 
knees beside Tom. 

Bill strode with measured step to 
the door. There hr turned, and 
looking back with a sneer, said, 
"Sweet dreams, Dream Boy!" 



IN A luxurious office of Asteroid 
Mining Coiporation on the 
twenty-third floor of a Manhattan 
skyscraper a furious official of the 
corporation faced an uncomfort- 
able underling. 

"I've heard of some pretty crude 
tricks in my time, Heilman, but 
breaking into the Staker Company's 
office like a common house thief 
takes the tin medal for low grade 
brains!" the ofiicial ranted, pound- 
ing his desk. "I suppose you 
thought that was an excellent way 
to advance yourself in the corpora- 



Itr., 



ARTHUR G. STANGLAND 



tifn I'll? Finesse, Heilman, finesse. 
Til I's what it takes in matters like 
this. Asteroid Mining, before it got 
the monopoly, stopped competition, 
but not by common housebreak- 
mg— 

"But— but I thought," Heilman 
explained lamely, "that we could 
get a copy of their trajectory and 
then deal with them after they got 
out to the quadrant. You know, fire 
a 'meteor' at them, blanket them 
with radio jamming, ruin their 
radar sighting- — " 

The official snorted and leaned 
disgustedly back in his leather 
chair. "No, no you big dumb ox! 
You're retired from the team, 
benched. Now you can sit on the 
sidelines and watch how the first 
string fix Staker and Company." 

When Bill asked for his key, the 
clerk handed him the key and a 
faintly lavender tinted envelope. 

Mystified by the feminine hand- 
writing, Bill sat in a lobby chair, 
and tore open the jasmine scented 
envelope. 

The note was brief. It said, 
"Dear Captain Staker: Please call 
on me at your earliest convenience, 
Apt. 5B. It is a matter of utmost 
importance to both of us. Margo." 

Ever since leaving Tom's office. 
Bill's mind had been spinning about 
a center of hatred and ugly rumina- 
tion. But now the stimulus of the 
jasmine fragrance struck a spark 
of adventure on the edge of his 
churning mind. The tangential 
path led off into inviting mysteri- 
ous shadows and he was going to 
follow. 

The (-iL'vator stopped at the 
apartment floor of the hotel's north 



Tower. In the softly lighted cor- 
ridor his feet fell soundlessly on the 
deep pile rug. He turned a corner, 
then walked up a short flight of 
steps to the door of Apt. 5B. 

In response to his knock the door 
was opened by a vision in white 
satin. She was startlingly beautiful. 
Dark heavy lashes, creamy skin, 
white even teeth in a flashing smile, 
a lithe body poised with the ease 
of a jungle cat. She was fulsome 
and high breasted, and as she fol- 
lowed Bill's quick appraising 
glance, she seemed to smile know- 
ingly that all he saw was displayed 
to best advantage. 

Hat in hand Bill said, "I'm — 
I'm Captain Staker." 

With a throaty laugh that could 
have been carefully timed, she said, 
"And I'm Margo. Come right in 
Captain." 

Bill walked onto a white rug, and 
unobtrusively took in the rich fur- 
niture Twenty First Century Mod- 
ern, the warm brown of the log- 
arithm ruled walls, paintings in 
the style of Van Gogh, sharply an- 
gled table lamps, the gold drapes at 
the windows. 

"It was kind of you to come so 
promptly," Margo continued, set- 
tling into a chair. 

Bill brought his glance back to 
her. "Well, frankly, I was curious 
to know what a perfect stranger 
could have in common with me." 

She laughed indulgently. "Nasty 
of me, wasn't it? — taking advan- 
tage of a human weakness." She 
gestured at Scotch and bourbon on 
the coffee table. "I'll let you do us 
the honors. Captain. Bourbon for 
me." 

Presently, glass in hand and a 



THE BLACK TIDE 



105 



spreading warmth in him, Bill fixed 
the girl with a quizzical look. "Tell 
me, Margo, just what is this mat- 
ter of utmost importance to both 
of us?" 

She put her glass on the table, 
then sat back and Bill felt the full 
impact of her dark lustrous eyes. 
"It's a business matter, Captain. 
You've been recommended a? a 
man of high purpose and dejjcnda- 
bility. As the heir to my father's 
controlling interest in ]nterc:onti- 
nental Lines I am badly in need of 
a man with your experience to han- 
dle traffic details." 

Bill lifted a brow. "Interconti- 
nental Lines? Never heard of it. 
Exclusively airline trafiic on 
Earth"? 

"It's a new company formed un- 
der monopoly regulations. Of 
course, I realize you're a spaceman, 
but staying on Earth would have its 
compensations. You can name your 
own salary." 

Bill leaned forward and mixed 
another drink. This was something 
unexpected and pretty tempting 
too. No more fighting his fear of 
space. He downed the drink in a 
few gulps, then stood up. 

"Well, I — I'd like to think things 
over," he said with hesitation, walk- 
ing slowly to the window. 

Margo followed, saying, "I don't 
mean to rush you. Bill — yet the 
situation needs your experienced 
hand." 

"I know, but my brother and I 
are all set to make a scouting trip 
to Beta Quadrant." 

Margo leaned against the win- 
dow drapes, smiling with frank ad- 
miration. "I know you are. How in 
the world you can take off from 



Earth and hit a target far out in 
space is beyond me. Is it some- 
thing like firing artillery?" 

The warm glow already suffusing 
Bill's senses took on added lustre 
when he looked into her question- 
ing eyes. Expansively, he began 
drawing diagrams, and explaining 
the elements of space navigation. 

"Now here's the trajectory my 
brother and I are planning to use," 
he went on, drawing a complex 
curve with loading figures and fuel 
consumption and point of contact 
with the Beta Quadrant. 

When he paused once, Margo 
touched the gold sunburst emblem 
on his arm. "That's fascinating, 
Bill, but making a trip like yours 
is all a gamble. I'm not offering you 
a gamble. I'm offering you a sure 
thing." 

"Yes, I realize that." Bill got to 
his feet. "But just the same I want 
to think your proposition over, 
Margo." 

She leaned toward him putting 
her hands on his lapels. "Bill, don't 
risk your neck out there in space. I 
need you desperately In the com- 
pany." 

Suddenly, Bill was electrically 
aware of cool, smooth arms sliding 
up and around his neck and her 
soft red mouth within fragrance dis- 
tance. 

And he was exquisitely aware of 
the full soft length of her pressing 
against him. The scent of jasmine 
reached him with bewitching 
stealth. That was when he closed 
the gap to her mouth in a sudden 
rush. 

Bill came out of a whirling state 
of pure feeling to hear the visi- 
phone buzzing insistently. 



106 



ARTHUR G. STANGLAND 



"The phone," he mumbled. 

Margo opened her eyes dreamily, 
then comprehended. She walked 
over to the phone, picked up the 
receiver. 

After a moment she turned 
around looking at him questioning- 
ly. "It's for you, Bill." 

He took the phone and said, 
"Captain Staker speaking." 

The desk clerk said, "A gentle- 
man to see you, sir. Shall I send 
him to Apt. 5B?" 

"No," Bill answered. "I'll be 
down to my room in a few moments 
and see him there." 

He turned to Margo. "I guess 
business comes before idyll, Margo. 
I've got to go." 

Her lustrous dark eyes searched 
his face intently. "How long must 
I wait for an answer. Bill?" 

"Can you wait until Thursday — 
three days?" Time enough to 
thresh things out with Tom. 

"I guess I can," Margo said, 
touching him with an inviting 
glance, "but do I have to wait that 
long before I see you again?" 

Bill grinned and shook his head 
in wonder. "My lord, what per- 
sistence! I got an idea any visiting 
would not be entirely social. Some- 
where along the line business would 
rear its shaggy head. Okay, how 
about dinner at the Wedgewood 
Room tomorrow night?" 

"Wonderful!" 

Later at his own floor to his sur- 
prise he found Tom pacing the cor- 
ridor. In a strained voice he said, 
"The clerk said a gentleman — " 

Tom came back in a conciliatory 
tone, "And I don't fit the descrip- 
tion, eh? Well, anyway. Bill, we got 
things to talk over. How about it?" 



Bill shrugged noncommittally, 
unlocked his door and the two en- 
tered. Perched on the arm of a 
chair. Bill lighted a cigarette and 
pulled deeply of it. 

"Well, what is it?" He glanced 
coolly at his brother sitting with his 
left leg dangling over the arm of 
his chair. 

Tom cleared his throat and said, 
"I — er, came to see how we're 
stacking up, Bill. After all we got 
a big show on our hands and the 
whole world is waiting for the cur- 
tain to go up. But we can't be 
squabbling between ourselves when 
we go on stage. Let's settle matters 
now and get on with our job — 
after all we both got a lot at stake 
in the company." 

Bill studied the end of his ciga- 
rette a long moment. "I guess you 
might as well count me out, Tom. 
I'm quitting the show." 

Furrows appeared above Tom's 
brows. "Quitting! And after all 
you've put into the venture? Bill, 
have you gone nuts?" He stopped 
a moment. Then he said, "Oh, I 
guess I see the light. Christy;, eh? 
Well, Bill, honest — and I really 
mean this — you can have all the 
profits of the trip if I'm guilty of 
trying to take Christy away from 
you. You've got the wrong slant 
on things." 

Bill shrugged, saying, "It's not 
that — and I still am not convinced 
— it's just that I'm considering an- 
other proposition." 

Tom got to his feet in agitation, 
looking down at Bill incredulously. 
"My God, Bill, you sure have 
changed! What about all those bull 
-sessions we had reading and re- 
reading the George Staker philoso- 



THE BLACK TIDE 



107 



phy of free enterprise? The world 
needs an object lesson to show how. 
far it has strayed from those first 
wonderful days of the Atomic Age. 
We are heirs. Bill by special fran- 
chise, Old George saw the shape of 
things to come pretty clearly, and 
it's up to us to carry out his vision 
of things as they should be." 

Bill ground out his cigarette in a 
tray. His underlip crowded out 
stubbornly. "I'm not going." 

For a moment Tom stared hard 
at Bill, and a heavy singing .silence 
lay between them. Then Tom 
strode to the door and opened it. 
"All right, Bill — you and I are 
through!" 

The door slammed. For awhile 
Bill sat looking at it, wondering why 
the slammed door reminded him 
of looking at his reflection in the 
bathroom mirror and telling him- 
self "I'm scared — scared as hell. 
And if I don't get hold of myself, 
I'm through — ^washed up!" 



THE NEXT day when he was 
busily dressing, the ultrafax 
popped out the breakfast edition. 

"Space Bird takes off for Beta 
Quadrant. Tom Staker gambles 
all." 

Bill stared at the pictures of the 
rocket climbing savagely at the 
head of a column of fire. The crazy, 
stubborn fool. Going it alone> risk- 
ing his neck and everybody else's 
aboard. Well, let him go out there 
and break his blasted neck on the 
Asteroid Belt. 

For the next three days Bill saw 
much of Margo. She was the most 
exciting thing he had ever discov- 
ered, and he indulged her laugh- 



ingly when she took to speaking of 
his position in Intercontinental 
Lines as an accomplished fact. 

On the third day he took Margo 
to lunch, a Margo with shining 
eyes, for this was Bill's day of de- 
cision. She had done her work well. 

He ordered for them, and added, 
"Also a bottle of champagne." 

The waiter brought the cham- 
pagne first. There was no doubt on 
Margo's features what this was 
about, even though it had always 
been "if", "maybe" "possibly" in 
Bill's discussions with her about the 
new job. 

In the midst of picking up his 
glass and proposing a toast, "Here's 
to my new — " Bill stopped. The 
ultrafax had popped out a sheet. 
Carefully putting the glass down, 
he said, "That's a special bulletin." 

Picking it up he read aloud, 
"Staker Rocket in .serious trouble. 
Home field reports damage by 
small meteor. Crew on emergency 
air bottles. Mysterious emanations 
blind radar scope and disrupt com- 
munication with Earth." 

Tom — and the others, out there 
fighting for their lives against suf- 
focation and intense cold. Their 
quarrel seemed like the antics of 
teenagers now. He had to get out 
to the field, .sec if he could help. 

"What are you going to do?" 
Margo was watching him intently, 
the knuckles of her small hands 
white. 

"I'm going to the field." 

"But — but what about that toast 
you were making to your new — job, 
that's what you were going to say, 
wasn't it?" Her eyes were intense 
spots of jet. 

"I guess that'll have to wait. 



108 



ARTHUR G. STANGLAND 



Margo," he told her. "I can't stand 
by when Tom needs help." 

Margo clutched his hands con- 
vulsively. "Bill, don't take a rocket 
up or you'll die in the same trap 
he's dying in!" The words rushed 
out as if through a trapdoor she 
could not control. 

Bill glanced at her with sharp, 
new interest. "How do you know 
it's a trap, and how do you know 
he's going to die?" 

Tears began to well up in her 
large eyes. "All I can tell you is 
don't go out there, Bill. I don't 
want to lose you — now." 

Dawning realization filled Bill 
with horror. "Margo — Margo, for 
God's sake, what kind of a game 
have you been playing with me!" 

Margo's shoulders sagged, and 
she began to sob out her story. 
"Bill, please, please believe me. I 
love you. That was not my part of 
the agreement with Asteroid Min- 
ing — to fall in love with you. Yes, I 
was hired to separate you and your 
brother, break up your company." 

Before Bill could snarl an answer 
to that, a hotel service clerk came 
with a portable phone. 

"Call for you, sir." 

With his eyes fixed steadily on 
Margo, he spoke into the transmit- 
ter, "Captain Staker." 

Christy's strained and tearful 
voice came over the wire. "Bill, oh. 
Bill, we're getting terrible news here 
at the field. Tom's ship is losing 
oxygen!" 

"Yes, I know," he answered. "I 
just got the Ultra on it. I'll be 
right out, Christy." 

As he replaced the phone he 
looked at Margo with a grim, loath- 
ing expression. "A female trick as 



old as the universe and I had to fall 
for it. You and your innocent ques- 
tions about our Quadrant trajec- 
tory! What a sucker I was!'' He 
drew back his hand to slap her but 
decided against it. She was crying 
when he left. 

On the way to the field the fa- 
miliar but forgotten black tide of 
fear rose up like a spectre once 
more to scatter his gathering ideas 
for helping Tom. Resigning him- 
self to its power and pulling over to 
the roadside, he sat still, gripping 
the wheel. Yes, he told himself 
tensely, here I sit while Tom and 
the others drift in space needing 
help. The realization of their need 
slowly gave him a greater objective 
clarity than he had ever had before. 
He began to see himself now for 
what he was — a cringing weakling 
stripped naked of all manliness at 
the first show of evil. Though he 
perhaps had been worse than the 
average, this was the trouble with 
his whole security minded genera- 
tion. They never dreamed great 
dreams like George Staker and his 
era which wrested atomic power 
from the treasure house of nature. 
No, this generation carefully fol- 
lowed safe, charted paths in the 
world of ideas. It had given up its 
freedom to a world of government 
controlled monopolies. And Tom, 
taking up the torch left by their 
creatively imaginative ancestor, was 
trying to recapture a small facet of 
that golden age. 



WITH THE dawning in him of 
Mid-Twentieth Century mind. 
Bill felt a thrilling sense of freedom 
as the black tide receded over the 



THE BLACK TIDE 



109 



horizon of his inner world. He took 
a new firm grip on the wheel, and 
took off again at high speed. 

Christy was at the field office 
waiting outside. As he stepped out 
of the car, she threw her arms 
around him. 

"Oh, Bill, what can you do for 
Tom now?" 

He said gently, "I'll bring him 
back for you." 

She drew back her head to look 
at him incredulously, "You still 
think — ! Oh, Bill, you foolish guy, 
you're the one I love, the one I've 
always loved." 

For a moment he searched her 
eyes and saw^ only a revelation of 
honest feeling. A surging gladness 
flooded through him, releasing an 
unconscious hard ball of tension in- 
side. 

"Christy, what a knothead I've 
been!" He gathered her up to kiss 
her fervently. "So long, Christy. 
Old Staker was a piker at dreaming 
compared to what I'm dreaming 
for you and me!" 

The field men had the rocket 
fueled up and provisioned to go. 
"This'll be no picnic, but there's a 
prize out there if we want it bad 
enough. You'll all have a share in 
it, instead of handing it all over to 
the government. Are you with Tom 
and me?" 

"Sure, Bill. Let's go!" 

"Yeah, let's open 'er wide up!" 

They all clambered up the ship's 
access ladder in high spirits. In a 
moment a warning red signal rocket 
shot into the sky and burst, warning 
all local aircraft. Another five min- 
utes and the rocket leapt off the 
Earth with a long, shattering roar. 

Bill kept the fissioning metals 



pouring through the atomic explo- 
sive after-chambers until the men 
screamed at the acceleration. Final- 
ly he eased it off to free flight and 
the Space Dragon followed the tra- 
jectory of the Space Bird. 

All the way he hovered over the 
radar scope. Then after long hours 
of fatiguing watching he crawled 
into his bunk. 

Later he woke up to Radarman 
Jones' voice in his ear. 

"Captain — wake up. We've 
pickt'd up a ship on the scope!" 

Bill piled out and forced his float- 
ing feet to magnetic contact with 
the steel deck. He followed Jones 
down the short corridor to the com- 
munications cabin. 

At the radar scope Bill studied 
the ship, then gave orders decelerat- 
ing the Space Dragon. 

"There's another ship!" Jones 
exclaimed, pointing at the edge of 
the scope. 

Bill peered at the new ship, 
studying its characteristics. Then 
he nodded his head. "It's the Space 
Bird all right. But that first one — 
I got an idea it must be an Asteroid 
Mining ship.- Margo must have 
transmitted the Space Bird trajec- 
tory to Asteroid Mining. I don't 
see how anybody would know 
where to find us in such immense 
distances as Beta Quadrant." 

Stepping over to the communica- 
tions panel he called the Space 
Bird. No answer, and though he 
kept calling he could not raise the 
ship. 

TThen he called Staker Field on 
Earth. 

"Caxton?" 

The field came back. "Staker 
Field. Go ahead." 



110 



ARTHUR G. STANGLAND 



"Caxton, we've found the Space 
Bird but can't speak thenij so I'm 
cutting you in on communications 
with an Asteroid Mining ship that's 
hanging around. Tape pictures and 
sound — the whole works." 

"Okay." 

Flipping another switch. Bill 
called the strange ship on the all- 
interplanetary frequency. 

Suddenly after long minutes of 
silence the dark screen lighted up 
with the impassive features of a 
round faced, cold eyed man. 

"Yeah? This is the Pluton. What 
d'you want — and who are you?" 

"This is the Space Dragon — sis- 
ter ship to the Space Bird there in 
your vicinity. What's the matter 
with our ship?" 

The man's eyes darkened and his 
jaws tightened. "There's plenty 
wrong with it, Space Dragon. And 
the same thing's going to be wrong 
with your ship, too. A 'meteor' is 
going to hit your ship the same as 
hit the Space Bird. Asteroid Mining 
doesn't like competitors horning in 
their business!" 

Bill shot back grimly, "I'mglad 
to hear your views on competition. 
Mister. The whole world is inter- 
ested in our Project Venture, and 
when they hear what you said 
there's going to be hell to pay. Be- 
cause, you see, everything you say 
and how you look saying it is be- 
ing recorded back at Staker Field 
on Earth!" 



The other man's impassive face 
suddenly turned into a ludicrous 
mask of a man burning his fingers 
on hot chestnuts. The two way 
hook-up abruptly ended. On the 
scope Bill and Jones watched the 
image of the Pluton begin to move 
across the scope and finally out of 
range in the opposite direction to- 
ward Asteroid Mining's Omega 
Quadrant. 

Hours later the Space Dragon 
made physical contact with Tom's 
ship. Bill was the first one through 
the communicating airlock. 

Tom, his face drawn and hag- 
gard, met him as he emerged in thf 
ship. The rest of the crew were I)- 
ing still to conserve air. 

"Hi, Bill. Boy, are we glad to see 
you. That 'meteor' they threw at us 
confined us on air bottles in the for- 
ward compartments." 

Bill shock his hand warmly. "Wr 
got enough air for all of us. After 
we patch tilings up here, let's start 
carving us a chunk of private en- 
terprise." 

Tom's tired eyes lighted up. 
"Hm, say, you're so right! Our 
geigers have found enough floating 
ore in Beta Quadrant already to 
make a big nick in Asteroid's busi- 
ness. 

Bill gave him a mock salute, 
"Okay, skipper. You've earned the 
title of Head Dreamer, and I'll help 
rnake your dreams come true!" 



• THE END ■ 



SALESMAN'S GUIDE, RULE 2: The modern 1995 customer 
who enters Tracy's Department Store is not always right, but 
as far as you are concerned, he is. 



THE 



By Waldo T. Boyd 



THE LITTLE green cue light 
blinked three times. Trevor An- 
son arranged his tie at just the nat- 
tily precise angle, waved his hand 
before a hidden lighting-efFect 
switch in the smooth marble pillar 
at the entrance to the display room, 
and faced the elevator. This would 
be a "green light" customer — a first- 
time prospect, and three blinks in- 
dicated a very difficult individual. 
Anson quickly practiced his most 
beguiling smile. 

"Welcome to Tracy's Roboid De- 
partment," he said, enthusiastically, 
as the elevator doors slid open. His 
practiced smile was just right. 

He quickly noted the man's con- 
servative dress, the flaming red tie. 
Aggressive type, Anson decided. A 
shock of red hair that didn't want 
to lie down hinted that he was stub- 
born as well. 

"Heard you've got a sale on ro- 
bots," Red-tie said, challengingly, 



as he st(-p]ird aside for his wife. 

The woman who stepped off the 
elevator .smilt-d, showing a lovely 
dimple, and An^on beamed on her. 
The tiny flake nl a hat perched atop 
her auburn hair reminded Anson of 
the comb on a Rhode Island Red. 

"Not robots, sir," Anson cor- 
rected diplomatically. "The Plasti- 
Cast Roboid is not exactly a robot." 

"Well, anyhow, trot one out, and 
let's see what it looks like. Millicent 
will never be satisfied until she's 
seen one of the things." He glared 
dramatically in the general direc- 
tion of his wife, who pretended not 
to notice. 

Anson led them into the Gray 
Room. He mentally went over the 
applicable rule: Rule 23; Always 
introduce the marked-down mer- 
chandise first. It may provide the 
customer with an incentive for buy- 
ing something better. 

"These are last year's models/' he 



111 



12 



WALDO T. BOYD 



said, with just the right flavor of 
tlisiaste in his voice. "Of course, 
you may expect a slight reduction 
... a small percentage . . ." 

Red-tie was muttering. "Damned 
mechanical things, full of wheels 
and wires. What's to keep 'em from 
running amok and killing us all!" 

"But dear, they don't have wheels 
anymore," protested the woman, 
timidly. Her face was pretty, Anson 
decided, but it was obvious that the 
man would be the deciding factor 
in this sale. 

He made a mental note: Rule 
31: Pick the individual of a family 
group who seems to hold the decid- 
ing voice, and SELL! He remem- 
bered a portion of a sales talk he 
had memorized a few days before, 
and took it up, almost chanting: 

". . . our Roboids are grown, 
much as crystals are grown, in great 
vats in New Chicago. A Plasti-Cast 
Roboid is guaranteed . . ." 

"A fat chance we'd have of col- 
lecting the guarantee if we were 
chopped into mincemeat," Red-tie 
interrupted, shuddering slightly as 
the implication of his own words 
hit him. 

Anson felt a moment of panic as 
he failed to remember an applicable 
rule from the Salesman's Guide, but 
it formed in his mind at the last 
moment: Rule 18: Never argue 
with a customer — change the sub- 
ject. 

"Why don't you come with me 
to the Green Room?" he asked. 
"The very latest models are on dis- 
play." He walked slowly at first, 
then more quickly as the couple al- 
lowed themselves to be led. He slid 
his hand near a hidden switch in 
the archway, and floodlights came 



on just as they entered. 

The woman uttered a little 
squeal of delight at the sight of a 
very handsome figure dressed in a 
cutaway, standing in an attitude 
of service. 

"Oh!" she breathed dreamily. 
"He would make such a wonderful 
bulter." 

"Well, wind him up and let's see 
what he'll do," growled the man, 
his face florid in the colored light of 
the Green Room. 

"I'm so very sorry," Anson said, 
slightly flustered, remembering that 
this was always the crucial moment 
in a sale. "The Roboid cannot be 
activated for demonstration pur- 
poses." 

"What?" roared Red-tie, in- 
credulously. "Do you mean to say 
you want me to buy the damned 
thing without knowing whether it 
ticks or not?" 

Anson tried desperately to re- 
member the best rule for such an 
answer, but failed. He plunged 
desperately into his own explana- 
tion. 

"You see, our Roboids are 
matched to your family personality 
at the time of purch ase, and acti- 
vated then. We cannot erase a per- 
sonality once it has been transferred 
to their sensitive minds." He saw 
the disbelieving smirk on the man's 
mouth and felt that the sale was in- 
deed lost. But he plunged on, des- 
perately. 

"They'ire very economical. They 
don't require any upkeep, like food. 
When they become tired they will 
sit or lie down near an electric out- 
let and plug in a power cord, and 
in a few minutes they are as rested 
and tireless as ..." 



THE SALESMAN 113 

"Bosh!" Red-tie retorted. "I've been standing by, spoke to Anson, 

heard enough. Come, Millicent, we "People are such dears at times, 

still have time to try Bonn's new aren't they?" he said. "However, 

Helio-rotor. At least they'll give us it's time for your rest period. I'll 

a demonstration." take over now." 

Anson escorted them to the Mag- "Thank you so much," Anson re- 

na-lift. He felt better as he recalled plied tiredly. 

the last rule in the Guide, the one He walked to a tiny room at the 

that seemed to cover the situation far end of the great showroom and 

so well: Rule 50: If they balk he- closed the door. He stretched 

cause of the no-demonstration rule, wearily out on a low, folding cot, 

let them go. They will be back u'licn the only piece of furniture, and 

they have seen one of their jrinids readied for a tiny black power cord 

with a Plasti-Cast Roboid. hanging nearby. 

"Good-bye, Sirj Madam," Anson Deftly he jihiggcd it into the 

said wearily, as the Magna-lift socket under his armpit, and 

doors closed. "Come again soon." breathed deeply, relaxedly. 

He breathed a sigh of relief as "Yes," he cli.inted softly, drifting 

the elevator cage dropped them ofl" to sice]!," piojile are such dears 

from sight. A salesman, who had sometimes." 



■ THE END ■ 



STATEMENT OF THE OWNERSHIP, MANAGEMENT. AND CIRCULATION REQUIRED BY THE 

ACT OF CONGRESS OF AUGUST 24, 1912, AS AMENDED BY THE ACTS OF 

MARCH 3, 1933, AND JULY 2, 1946 (39 U. S. C. 233) 

Of IJ, published bi-monthly at Buffalo, New York, for October 1, 1 '.i".-'. 

1. The names and addresses of the publisher, pjitor, maiiii if,' I'llltor. and business 
managers are: Publisher, Quinn Publislilng Company, lac, .'ids < llnton Ave., Khigston, 
N. X.; Editor, James L. Quinn, 308 Clinton Avenue, Kingston, N. Y. ; Managiny editor. 
None ; Business manager, None. - 

2. The owner is: (if owned by a corporation, its name and ail' -^s must bo stated 
and also immediately thereunder the names and addresses of stooUlKiiii. is owning or hold- 
ing 1 percent or more of total amount of stock.) 

Quinn Publishing Company, Inc., 308 Clinton Avenue, Kingston, N. Y. ; .Tunics L. Quinn, 
308 Clinton Avenue, Kingston, New York. 

3. The known bondholders, mortgagees, and other security holdrrs owuliij? or holding 
1 percent or more of total amount of bonds, mortgages, or otlier scciirideH are : None. 

4. The two paragraphs next above, giving the names of owners, HloelilioUlers, and 
security holders, if any, contain not only the list of stocklinlderw nnd securlly lioldorg as 
they appear upon the books of the company but also, in eases wlicre tlie stockholder or 
security holder appears upon the books of tlic coinjiany as irut^tee or in any other 
fiduciary relation, the name of the person or corporation for whom such trustee is acting, 
is given; also that the said two paragraplis contain istutcmcnts enibraeiuK atiiant's full 
knowledge and belief as to the circumstances and conilitiuns niKler which stockholders 
and security holders who do not appear upon the books of tlie comiiany as trustees, hold 
stock and securities in a capacity otlier than that of a Ijona fide owner; and this affiant 
has no reason to believe that any. other person, association, or coriKjration has any inter- 
est direct or Indirect in the said stock, bonds, or otiier securities llian as so stated by him. 

5. The average number of copies of each issue of this publication sold or distributed, 
through the mails or otherwise, to paid subscribers during the ]2 months preceding the 
date shoTNTi above was : (This information is required from daily, weekly, semiweekly, 
and triweekly newspapers only). 

James L. Quinn, Editor. 
Sworn to and subscribed before me this 18th day of September, 1952. 
(sEAij) Evelyn Dorothy Hubbard (My commission expires March 195.^) 




SCIENCE 



BRIEFS 



The Sea Between the Planets 

UNTIL ROCKETS are put into 
space, no one will be able to 
tell about the condition of weight- 
lessness, the absence of gravity, the 
state of "free fall" that can be ex- 
perienced. We know that anti- 
gravity devices seem improbable. 
Yet it is extremely desirable to 
know how a human being feels and 
behaves in free fall, in a state of 
null-gravity. Scientists have been 
beating their heads against a solid 
wall endeavoring to think up some 
way, no matter how inadequate, of 
simulating this situation. 

Parachute jumpers offer one pos- 
sibility. In a sense, when they are 
falling freely, before their para- 
chutes open, they are in the equiva- 
lent situation of a rocket man float- 
ing free in his space suit. Unfortu- 
nately they can't fall for a very long 
time without having to open their 
chutes. In addition, even during 
the moments of so-called free fall, 
they are too conscious of the high- 
speed air-stream flowing around 
them. Shock, wind, cold — all such 
conditions — lessen the sensation of 
trjie free fall. 

The idea of a freely falling eleva- 
tor also simulates gravity-less-ness. 
But here too the duration of un- 



hindered fall is slight. Even if an 
artificial elevator structure of great 
height were constructed, the period 
of being in free fall would be short, 
because in a short time the snub- 
bers and shock absorbers would 
have to take hold and ease the free- 
ly falling elevator to rest. There is a 
strong possibility, however, that 
such a structure might be built in 
the not very distant future, for it 
would enable space surgeons and 
medical men interested in human 
reactions to space fhght to get some 
accurate observed data on biolog- 
ical behavior under no gravity. In 
fact, this will probably be done 
soon, for medical men are clamor- 
ing for data which they just can't 
get in any other way. 

The free-floating of a rubber- 
suited swimmer whose bouyancy in 
water is just one, is a rough simula- 
tion, in a sense, of weightlessness 
and free fall, although here the 
presence of the water medium is 
highly deceptive. At least the tre- 
mendous freedom of motion with 
the consequent loss of sense of di- 
rection helps a lot in giving the feel- 
ing of free fall. The sea between the 
planets is of a far more tenuous 
stuff than water! 

The free-fall elevator mentioned 
above is about the one chance we 
on Earth will have of experiencing 
free fall. Constructed vertically 
along the side of a cliff or high 
mountain, say, only as high as ten 
thousand feet — by no means an im- 
possible engineering feat — an eleva- 
tor system would provide a consid- 
erable amount of information on 
how the human body reacts to 
weightlessness, at least for periods 
of a few minutes. The falling eleva- 



114 



SCIENCE BRIEFS 



115 



tor, stream-lined and projectile- 
shaped, could avoid acquiring the 
conventional terminal velocity for 
quite a while, and thus duplicate 
considerably the conditions within 
a space ship in free space without 
acceleration. As soon as the plans 
for actual manned rockets come a 
little closer to reality, we arc likely 
to see and hear a lot of organiza- 
tions trumpeting for one of these 
space duplicators. The technicians 
and medical men will have a hard 
time trying to prevent people from 
sneaking a ride one way or another. 
Gome to think of it, if an amuse- 
ment park were to install such an 
elevator, it might do a hearty busi- 
ness! 

Skyrocket 558-11 ... 

A NAVY research plane — rocket 
IS the better word — catapulted 
across the sky at the incredible 
speed of thirteen hundred miles an 
hour! This recently released news 
shows that We are finally beginning 
to produce sound original research 
in rocket engines instead of being 
content merely to copy and modify 
German rockets. The behavior and 
use of the new experimental craft 
compares with the plane-intercept- 
ing rockets the Germans were using 
in the last days of World War II. 

The Skyrocket is a small plane, 
with the barest traces of swept-back 
wings; it is powered solely by rock- 
ets and was launched from the belly 
of a B-29 at thirty thousand feet. 
From this altitude it climbed al- 
most vertically to eighty thousand 
feet and then zoomed in a series of 
maneuvers designed to test its 
Strength. It came through with fly- 



ing colors, and despite a flight-dura- 
tion measured in minutes — ^about 
four for this plane — ^it showed great 
promise as the ultimate interceptor 
type. 

When the fuel was exhausted the 
pilot glided to a safe landing and 
reported on the behavior of the 
rocket. He reported that the rocket 
shot through the "sonic" barrier 
without any of the yawing, vibra- 
tion or other faults which have 
characterized that operation with 
jets. His personal reactions to the 
flying qualities of the rocket were 
slight, since he was basically operat- 
ing from Instruments and, to all in- 
tents and purposes, flying blind. 

This single flight is not in itself 
extraordinarily spectacular, but it is 
indicative of what is in the cards. 
If such information has been re- 
leased It Is safe to assume that con- 
siderably more progressive work has 
already been done on other straight 
rocket craft. 

It is Interesting to consider that 
all that holds rocketry back is the 
matter of fuel nothing else. In a 
way, it is as though ^ve knew all 
about airplanes and their flight but 
didn't have powerful enough en- 
gines. That is exactly the position of 
rocketry. CheTuical fuels, no matter 
how they are concocted, still haven't 
the "oomph" to take rockets where 
they are able to go. We won't see 
really startling advances In rocket 
flight until one of two things hap- 
pens: either some government will 
decide to build a chemical step- 
rocket to go to the Moon, and hang 
the expense, or some geniuses will 
tie atomic energy to rocket engines. 
Until then rockets are doomed to be 
chained by gravity to the relatively 



116 



SCIENCE BRIEFS 



tliin shell of Terran air. 

Greatly encouraging is the fact 
that the military are growing con- 
cerned with the uses to which rock- 
ets may be put. Maybe they can 
persuade Uncle Sam to finance 
Lunar flight! 

Transistor in Transition . . . 

THIS IS a report on one of those 
"ramis in the framus" gadgets 
which;, in the course of time, is go- 
ing to change the lives of all of us — 
and which, because of its unspectac- 
ular, technical nature, will rarely be 
appreciated by any but the tech- 
nician. Yet every thinking person 
should be acquainted with it. It is 
the gadget which is inheriting the 
mantle of the Twentieth Century's 
most important invention, the 
vacuum tube. 

The gadget is called a "transis- 
tor" and was invented in the Bell 
Telephone Labs only a few years 
ago. Since then every laboratory on 
Earth has been working madly on 
it, and now it is ready to be applied 
on a wide scale. The transistor is 
nothing but a substitute for a 
vacuum tube — "only it don't got no 
vacuum !" 

Physically the transistor is a sliver 
of germanium metal, sealed within 
a capsule scarcely as large as a sixth 
of a cigarette and with three or four 



tiny "cat's whisker" wires touching 
it. That's all there is to it. It has no 
filament or grid or plate like an 
ordinary radio tube. It requires no 
power input except a simple plate 
voltage. It gives off hardly any 
heat. It is insensible to shock and 
violence. It is small. It is not made 
of delicate glass. It is rugged. It is 
cheap. And its virtues could be re- 
cited ad infinitum. 

What does it do? 

It does everything ordinary radio 
tubes do! You take it from there, 
compiling, if you can, a small list of 
the things modern vacuum tubes 
do. You'll have a fabulous list! 

Electronics has burst on the 
world with miracles, but generally 
these have been dampened some- 
what by the need for using tender 
tubes. The transistor overcomes this 
obstacle and wherever . a vacuum 
tube control can be substituted for 
human muscles or human mind, the 
new industrial transistor, a mere 
three years out of the development 
stage, can take over the job. If you 
think we live in an electronics age 
now, watch the next decade and 
note particularly that the vacuum 
tube will be limited to power ap- 
plications. The transistor, simple to 
build, harder to understand in 
terms of its operation ( its theory in- 
volves "holes in space") is com- 
ing 



Coming in the May issue: The author of that famous work, 
The Exploration of Space, brings to IF readers an exciting 
new yarn about a civilization that existed in space millions of 
years ago. Don't miss — 

JUPITER FIVE by Arthur C Clarke 



MARGIN OF ERROR 

(Continued from page 41) 



mass and location has least effect 
on all solar systems outside its own." 
The young Lobian, obviously 
jubilant at having so far managed 
to be correct, studied his computa- 
tions, adjusted several dials below 
the scanning screen and brought a 
single solar system into view. Twist- 
ing other dials, he brought the 
image nearer and nearer until only 
the sun could be seen on the small 
screen. Then he made a canlul 
final adjustment, touched a switch, 
and one by one the planets of the 
solar system singly popped into 
view. With an apparatus resem- 
bling a four- dimensional slide rule. 
Junior made rapid calculations as 
each of the nine appeared. 

Then he laid aside the apparatus 
and watched the parade of planets 
begin to move by a second time. 
Halfway through he touched a but- 
ton, stopping one planet on the 
screen. This he pointed at hope- 
fully. 

It was the planet known on Earth 
as Mars. 

Horace shook his head with a 
kind of triumphant sadness. "You 
see?" he telegraphed George. "He 
has the right solar system, but the 
wrong planet, though the one he 
indicated does have the least effect 
on all solar systems outside its 
own." 

George looked puzzled. "I don't 
quite follow that myself." 

"I specified provable planet. The 
one Junior picked is too small for a 
practical experiment with the 
equipment we have available." The 

1 



teacher glanced at George. "It is 
only natural you would miss that 
point, for of course you don't know 
our school equipment. But only yes- 
terday its limitations were explained 
to Junior. You see how forgetting to 
include all the data in his calcula- 
tions causes your son to err?" 

George nodded reluctantly. His 
antennae blushing a fiery red, 
Junior again fiddled with dials and 
brought the planet we call Earth 
into view. 

"There!" he telegraphed. 

Horace radioed his approval, an 
affiiinative grunt. George beamed 
his pride. 

A door in back of Marshall Igor 
Matoshok ojjencd and his watching 
and listening; audience saw the tall, 
soldierly I inure of General Serge 
Marik appear on the screen. Silent- 
ly the aiile-de-carn]j handed a slip 
of paper to the most important man 
in all the world. 

The Marshall adjusted his spec- 
tacles, frowned at the note and a 
flush of anger mounted to his 
cheeks. He waved the general away. 

"Comrades," h<- announced. "I 
have just received the answer the 
President of the Tri-federation of 
North Ainerica has made to our 
reasonable offer of peaceful terms. 
I will not bore you with the full 
context, but it amounts to a cate- 
gorical refusal." 

"You will wait for my signal, of 
course," Horace radioed Junior. 
"When your adjustments are com- 

17 



118 



MARGIN OF ERROR 



plcte, please transmit them to me 
clearly." 

"Yes Sir," Junior sent back. 
"Azimuth two-hundred seventeen 
milSj five-hundred and two micro- 
mils. Elevation minus eight mils, 
thirty-six micromils." 

"It is necessary to check students' 
data very carefully," Horace ex- 
plained to George. "If by error we 
destroyed the entire solar system, it 
might throw us off our orbit suf- 
ficiently to cause mild weather 
changes. Conceivably it could even 
cause slight Lobequakes. The elimi- 
nation of the single planet's mass 
will have only slight effect on its 
own solar system, however. Not 
enough to seriously incommode any 



life there may be on the other 
planets. And of course it will have 
no effect whatever on solar systems 
other than its own." 

"Comrades and citizens of the 
world," Marshall Igor Matoshek 
said, "you are about to witness an 
event beside which all other events 
of the past pale to insignificance." 
He raised one arm and spoke in a 
thunderous voice. "Fire!" 

"Fire," Horace transmitted ab- 
sently, and as Junior touched the 
proper button, turned apologetical- 
ly to George. "I am afraid you 
don't find this very interesting. 
After all, it's pretty elementary 
stuff." 



- THE END - 



THE VICTOR 

(Continued from page 54) 



resurrect 5274. But they'd gain 
nothing. There would still be an 
extra plate. You see? 

"So they destroyed the plate. He 
knew they would. And they also 
had to go back through the records, 
to Earth, through the security files 
there, through the birth records, 
everything. And they destroyed 
every trace, every shred of evidence 
that No. 5274 ever existed." 

So he kept the memory alive and 
that kept 4901 alive while the other 
prisoners become automatons, hear- 
ing, feeling, sensing nothing except 
the bells. Remembering nothing, 
anticipating nothing. 

But 4901 could remember some- 



thing magnificent, and so he could 
anticipate, and that was hope, and 
faith. He found that no one really 
believed him but he kept on telling 
it anyway, the story of the Plan. 

"Maybe this number didn't ex- 
ist," someone would say. "If there's 
no record anywhere — " 

4901 would smile. "In my head, 
there's where the record is. / know. 
J remember." 

And so it was that 4901 was the 
only one who still remembered and 
who could still smile when some- 
time after that — no one in the 
prison colony knew how long — the 
Underground was victorious, and 
the Managerial System crumbled. 



THE END 



THE 



COMETH 



OF PROGRESS AND 
DECLINE 

Dear Mr. Quinn: 

I wish to take issue with the opin- 
ions expressed by "pwf" on pages 2 
and 3 of your November issue. 

"You understand the law ... or 
you . . . stop eating," pwf says. But 
he evidently does not understand 
the law. He proves this by a com- 
parison of historical technological 
progress with the stock market. He 
must be aware that an analogy is 
good only if the points of resem- 
blance are demonstrated so rigor- 
ously that some other form of argu- 
ment would usually be less involved 
and require no additional reason- 
ing. In other words, the chief use 
of an analogy is to impress the un- 
thinking. Mr. pwf, by depending 
entirely on analogy without any 
demonstration, shows he realizes the 
weakness of his argument. 

The reasons for rises and falls in 
the stock market are fairly simple 
and obvious, and can be expressed 
as an almost entirely uncomplicated 
feedback equation. Can pwf do the 
same for the causes of technological 



progress? Until he can, where is his 
analogy. (The equation mentioned 
above shows the conditions of a col- 
lapse, but it is extremely difficult to 
determine by observation whether 
these conditions are present. Hence 
the early wolf-crying mentioned by 
pwf.) 

Rise and fall is not the pattern of 
every action known. Until pwf can 
show that technological progress 
has the characteristics of actions 
showing this pattern rather than of 
those showing other patterns, his 
argument must remain suspect. 

I have concentrated on tech- 
nological progress because this 
seems to have been all taken in by 
pwf's very narrow view. Actually, I 
think the prospect of decline in 
other fields much more likely. We 
may well be heading for a period of 
superscientific moronism. 

You can see from this I am not 
being merely Pollyanna-ish. I think 
the prospects of decline excellent 
and frightening, and would appreci- 
ate seeing some real debate on this 
question, provided that it is con- 
ducted on a somewhat more con- 
crete level than was done in Mr. 
pwf's undoubtedly well-written ar- 
ticle. Some attention must be paid 
to facts, such as now existing trends 
in all fields, the cycles of past civili- 
zations, and the level to which 
knowledge and dispersion thereof 
must reach before becoming no 
longer totally destructible; less to 
ghostly and unreliable analogies. 

— Michael Wigodsky 
Houston, Texas 

We think pwf was writing of gen- 
eralities and the over-all cycles of 



119 



2{) 



THE POSTMAN COMETH 



human progress and decline rather 
than attempting to make a specific 
analogy of humanity, reduced to a 
common denominator, and its fore- 
shadoived doom. However, there 
can be interesting debate — and 
we'd like to hear from someone who 
wishes to take it up with Mr. 
Wigodsky. 



"BEST IN THE U.S." 

Dear Editor: 

The November issue of IF was 
excellent, in my opinion. I con- 
gratulate you on the pictures on the 
inside back and front covers. It 
looks so much better than when it 
was plain. When I pick up an IF 
mag I read it from cover to cover. 
I just finished the November issue 
and I find I like "The Image and 
the Likeness" best . . . Please re- 
member to run lots of short stor- 
ies .. . 

One complaint — Why didn't the 
cover have anything to do with the 
rest of the book? 

You put out a good mag ... It is 
the best science fiction magazine 
in the United States. 

Keep up the good work. 

—Richard F. Allen 
Framingham, Mass, 

That's a mighty fine compliment. 
We thank you! . . . Now, about the 
covers on IF: beginning with the 
November issue, our policy is to 
vary our covers. Some will be sym- 
bolical (November issue) some will 
illustrate a story, some will suggest 
a theme — whichever offers the 
strongest approach to originality 
and effectiveness. 



"SCIENCE FICTION 
BELONGS TO YOUTH" 

Dear Mr. Quinn: 

A letter in "The Postman 
Cometh" (November issue) literal- 
ly drove me to compose ray first 
"letter to the editor". 

This letter represents, in my opin- 
ion, the height of bigotry and in- 
tolerence! The writer is "cha- 
grined" to find that fanzine reviews 
are requested. His "worst fears are 
realized". He is "nauseated" at let- 
ters using "slangy drivel". 

The presumptuousness of such 
readers is astonishing. They are, in 
effect, demanding that a mass cir- 
• culation magazine be tailored to 
their personal specifications without 
regard to the interests of others. 

The fact that I enjoy fanzines is 
beside the point. I do not like your 
Science Briefs section, but I would 
not dream of suggesting that your 
other readers be deprived of the en- 
joyment and instruction they find 
therein. 

I have no sympathy for "nausea" 
caused by letters using "infanti- 
lisms" such as "terrif", "groovy", 
etc. Or even "egad", "gazooks", 
or "goshwowoboyoboyoboy" ! The 
average adolescent science fiction 
reader is, as a rule, considerably ad- 
vanced intellectually beyond his age 
level. The fact that they express 
their enthusiasm and opinions in 
the patois of their contemporaries 
should not deprive them of the 
right to self-expression that you of- 
fer all buyers and readers of your 
magazine. Science fiction belongs 
to youth — let them speak! 

— P. H. Economou 
Miami, Florida 




ON TARGET — Foreign craft is located several thousand 
miles from base, approximately 1000 miles above sur- 
face of the Moon. Televised image reveals it to be hostile. 
Base Command switches to automatic pilot control and 
both missiles converge on target for crash dive. Pursuit 
is similar to principle of dog hunting rabbit, only insteod 
of following a scent, missiles follow a metallic surface and 
image of the craft. Two missiles insure complete de- 
struction. (Drawings by Ed Valigursky.) 



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